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Back to school: student healthcare

01 October 2007 John Pritchard, InterGlobal

With its relatively low cost of living and favourable exchange rate, South Africa is becoming a hot destination for students studying English as a Second Language (ESL). This market segment offers a clearly defined target group for tailored, student-specific health insurance solutions.

John Pritchard, International Business Development Director of InterGlobal shares his insights about the growth potential of this market and what to look for in a good quality student health insurance plan.

Travelling overseas to study can be an exciting yet unsettling experience. As well as studying hard, students will have to adapt to a whole new culture. If they fall ill, home can suddenly seem a million miles away.

Medical cover

Having a solid healthcare plan in place can give peace of mind in the good times, and protection when things go wrong. To minimise cause for worry, you should look at plans that cover emergency and in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, prescriptions, physiotherapy, psychiatric care, dental care and maternity treatment for your student clients.

Although not a major concern in South Africa, if a student visits a neighbouring country, access to the right kind of emergency medical treatment may be limited or non-existent. In the case of a medical emergency, a plan that covers the extremely high costs of an air ambulance is a life saver.

Personal accident

Often it's not just the medical costs that students have to worry about when they fall ill. Look for a plan that will provide a lump sum payment in the case of accidental death or disability. If nothing else, this cover will help give a student, and their parents, peace of mind.

Non-medical benefits

Falling ill while studying may mean having to cancel a course. Look for plans that will reimburse your client's tuition fees in these circumstances.

For students, providing medical and emergency evacuation cover is not enough. Often they are unfamiliar with, or have not thought about the other personal insurances that they may require. Some student specific healthcare plans will include cover essential things like personal belongings, personal liability and travel insurance. The latter is of particular importance as students may be travelling long distances to reach South Africa and will need their health and their belongings covered while they do so.

Cover during holidays

You need to check the small print of a plan to find out whether your clients will be covered only during term time, or whether they will also be covered during their holidays. Some plans will suspend cover when students return home for the holidays, more comprehensive plans will cover a student when they are at home.

Service considerations

Excellent service from an insurance provider is essential. You should investigate how quickly a provider issues policy documents, responds to queries and pays claims. Some providers will offer access to a 24 hour, multi-lingual helpline so assistance and approval for treatment are available at all times. A specialist student healthcare insurance provider should also understand the needs of their student plan holders and be sympathetic to their needs.

The market for selling healthcare to students in South Africa is undoubtedly a growth one with plenty of opportunities. As with all opportunities, those who understand and exploit the market will reap the most benefits.

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