The future of international PMI

01 October 2009 Peter Rousseau, InterGlobal

Peter Rousseau, Group Business Development Director, InterGlobal, gazes into his crystal ball to predict the next major developments in expat PMI.

International private medical insurance (IPMI) is continuously developing as providers seek to provide a better product to their members. In a fast moving and competitive market, great new ideas which make one plan stand out from the crowd are gradually adopted by the industry and become the norm. This is a healthy phenomenon, keeping products relevant for the needs of international clients.

Innovations as mainstream benefits

Wellbeing benefits are an excellent example of the adoption of innovation – just a few years ago only a handful of plans offered inclusive health checks, as many providers saw them as an unnecessary and expensive cost. What the innovators had realised, however, was not only that free health checks were appreciated by members – but also that they caught potentially serious conditions early, cutting the cost of treatment – and the cost to the insurer significantly. Now the rest of the industry has caught up with the thinking of the innovators and have made wellbeing a mainstream benefit.

Innovation is a continuous process and undoubtedly ideas which appear new and radical today, such as the recent development of offering global security benefits to members to protect them from political and social unrest and natural disasters around the world, will be the norm tomorrow.

Future developments

In a fast moving industry, it's difficult to predict where future developments will take us – but by gazing into our crystal ball it's possible to see the direction that developments may take in the coming years.

Product development will continue and we will inevitably see the addition of new added-value benefits to plans – for example it's not hard to see the inclusion of critical illness cover in international PMI plans in the near future. We are also likely to see entry level plans getting simpler – with less complicated structures and straightforward benefit tables to attract expats who need low cost, plain vanilla protection.

Managing costs

As the cost of IPMI continues to rise, new systems to finance international healthcare could emerge - such as a single premium international PMI product where annual premiums are funded out of capital growth – helping to reduce the impact of medical cost inflation and providing ongoing care for a known cost.

Technological enhancements

At the moment it is difficult for members of international PMI plans to know whether they are benefiting from the best possible treatment for their condition. New and more successful treatments are continually being developed in various parts of the world and medical conditions regarded as chronic in some countries may now be readily treated and cured in other countries. Technological developments could see the development of global databases to enable members to identify and access state-of-the-art treatment and the best medical practitioner for their condition anywhere in the world. This same technology could also ensure that members can access doctors who speak their native tongue wherever they are.

While some of these ideas may be introduced and become the norm for international PMI plans – it is possible that others will never see the light of day. However, we can be equally sure, that other innovative ideas will emerge which will take international PMI forward the next step for the benefit of expats wherever they live in the world.

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