International PMI: business opportunity for advisers

01 August 2008 Edward Daniels, Africa InterGlobal

International PMI is a growth area for advisers and provides the opportunity to secure high value corporate and individual relationships with clients.

With the debate on the proposed National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme always in the news, it's easy for advisers to focus their attention on the private medical insurance (PMI) needs of their South African-based clients and to overlook the needs of clients working outside the country.

Vital cover

Anyone taking an expatriate posting outside South Africa needs effective international PMI which will respond to a medical emergency and provide for their day-to-day medical care needs. While access to high quality private healthcare is readily available in most western countries, the cost of treatment can be prohibitive without insurance. Expat postings may also be to countries and regions where healthcare is more limited and access to emergency medical evacuation is essential.

Adding value

International PMI is available either as corporate group schemes or as individual policies. While a cursory glance at the products on offer can make them all seem similar, there are a wide range of benefits and cover options available and some plans can be tailored to the individual requirements of clients. This means advisers can offer a valuable service by identifying the right plan and level of cover.

The starting point is to establish the geographic cover needed. Due to the high cost of treatment in the USA, worldwide policies can be very expensive and there is no need to provide this breadth of cover to expats who will not travel outside the African continent. Within group schemes it is generally possible to tailor geographic cover to suit different workers' postings, so the level of cover matches the countries individuals will visit.

Managing costs

Costs can also be managed through voluntary excesses or no claims bonuses, which are available on some plans, or by paying annually rather than monthly. Advisers can also ensure that clients are not paying for benefits they don't need and get a policy tailored to their needs. For example, many plans automatically include maternity benefits, which will clearly not be needed in all cases, while others offer family-friendly rates, which may not be required.

Drilling into details

Advisors can add further value by taking time to drill down into the details of the benefits. For example, all quality International PMI plans offer emergency evacuation by air ambulance or scheduled airline to the nearest high quality medical centre, but not all will allow the patient to be accompanied by all their family members. Consider the stress it would cause your client if they were evacuated, leaving their partner and children behind because the plan only allows one family member or colleague to accompany the patient.

Additional benefits also require careful investigation. For example, some international PMI plans respond to security emergencies as a result of political and civil unrest or catastrophic weather incidents. If your clients are likely to be based in less stable jurisdictions, they will be grateful for the cover provided by emergency security service specialists, such as red24.

Whether your clients are moving overseas with their employer or as an individual expatriate, they will value your advice on the benefits and cover available from International Private Medical Insurance – and it can offer a valuable new business stream to your practice as well.

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