Understanding the evolving market for expatriate health benefits

by Brent Borawski

The implications of the COVID-19 pandemic can be measured in a multitude of ways. During the past two years, the world had to adapt and develop a new normal on a micro and macro scale. Last month’s Global Benefits Group (GBG) roundtable discussion examined how the international health insurance industry is evolving as a market. As countries' regulations change, the health benefits and product offerings should transform along with it. 

While some individuals experience more opportunities to travel for work and education, others experience specific limitations.  The roundtable addressed opportunities and limitations regarding working and business practices, innovation, as well as diversity & inclusion. This process created a better understanding of how our offerings can fit various client needs. 

Working and business practices

Many changes caused by the pandemic are predicted to remain for the foreseeable future. However, following the removal of many travel limitations introduced during the beginning, there has been an observed increase in short-term assignments ranging from 6 - 18 months and a reduced amount of expats sent for these projects.  On a corporate level, the push to hybridize the workplace limits the growing digital nomadic lifestyle. However, the hybridization of the workforce will not negatively impact expat trends. A predicated 30% of companies will be expanding expatriates, meaning more mobility and an opportunity to provide services to those who need it.

As mobile internet becomes more reliable, and the access to remote work opportunities continue, employees are choosing to work remotely from countries outside of their own. Considering this trend, clients must look for insurance coverage that protects the insured in the countries they chose to work from.

Addressing diversity and inclusion thru expat health benefits

As an organization, we want to deliver appropriate coverage to as many locations as possible. Impacts from local and international regulation changes, access to technology and disparities in life and health outcomes, challenge prospective insurers’ ability to get coverage and limits a company’s ability to provide it.

Expatriates without a bank account or credit card will not have access to a convenient claims process. The industry is exploring options to solve for this lack of access.  This specific pain point can be explored and solved once more data is collected about the type of services people are accessing and how customized and flexible the claims process of an organization is.

Key regulatory changes add barriers for businesses to achieve a true global work policy. Regulations can be volatile, and it is in an organization's best interest to personalize the insurance provision as much as possible. With that in mind, providers still experience challenges to find products that are scalable and flexible to meet local regulations.

The disparities in life and health outcomes are well documented and provide useful information for product design that address the inequality experienced in the industry.  During the roundtable discussion, the data on health and wellbeing emphasized the variance of life expectancy based on location.  With this in mind, designing a product focusing on wellbeing is a major requirement that is needed to address diversity and inclusion through expatriate health benefits.

Insurer Market (Conclusion)

The roundtable discussion provided many conclusions on how to grow and compete in the evolving international expatriate health benefits market.  Rethinking wellbeing and the high costs of healthcare is a strong starting point when developing products and services. The insurance industry is behind the curve when it comes to technological innovation. Understanding the needs of your clients and increasing the personalization in products and communications can significantly improve reputation and client retention. With the cost of healthcare inflation increasing drastically, it is imperative that the leaders of the health insurance industry make it easy to do business and obtain coverage.

Learn more about the evolving IPMI industry by reading the full Health & Protection Roundtable Report coming soon.