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Has the cost of your international private medical insurance (IPMI) ballooned? If so you are not alone. There have been significant increases in the cost of international policies for many employers, with prices up by as much as 50% in some cases.

Why the big increase?
It is normal to expect a 10-15% annual increase in premiums for IPMI but you might be wondering why the prices have jumped much more rapidly recently. The steep increase has been caused by a number of factors, including increased regulation, greater demand for quality care, and the rising cost of care in some locations.

Employees increasingly expect greater choice in how and where they receive medical treatment. They also want access to the latest treatment and technology, all of which is increasing the demand for good quality private care.

In some places hospitals more routinely offer leading-edge or experimental treatments that are much more expensive. Singapore and Hong Kong have been acknowledged as countries where insurance costs are higher because of their willingness to offer these types of treatments.

How to beat the increase and control IPMI costs.

It is always a good idea to seek expert advice when reviewing your international cover but this is especially true now. Getting this advice will help you to make sure the varied costs, regulation and availability of medical infrastructure in all the countries your policy needs to cover have been taken into account.

Here are three things you can consider that will help to control costs:

Single policy vs local cover
Consider whether it is cheaper to have a single policy covering all locations, or separate local cover for some locations, especially for high-cost countries. Speak to a specialist adviser who will be able to advise on the most appropriate way to help control costs while still ensuring the most suitable level of international cover for the company’s specific needs.

Provider options
Review the providers you are using. There may be providers with access to better value medical facilities than the ones you are currently using. Compare what is available to check you are getting good value as well as high quality care, different providers have access to different hospitals, clinics, etc.

Exclusions
Review what is covered in the policy and how that relates to the likely needs of the overseas staff being insured. Make sure you are including and excluding the right things. For example, childbirth can be very costly in some locations and may not be relevant in some circumstances.

Ask your adviser to look at this area specifically, helping to control these costs is a core part of the value they should be providing. Use their advice to find the most appropriate level of cover for your staff and select a package and providers that meets your needs and gets the most value for the budget you have.

This expertise is critical in managing IPMI costs. Premiums may be reduced through centralised or local policies, changing what is included in the policy, or seeking providers who can offer access to less expensive medical services. You don’t have to just accept these steep price rises, it really is worth getting specialist advice and using the tips above to help you control the cost of IPMI.

Sarah Dennis, Head of International, The Health Insurance Group

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