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Global employee benefits: Safekeeping your workforce’s health sustainably
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Global employee benefits: Safekeeping your workforce’s health sustainably

Traditionally, IPMI has been a high-end, premium proposition reserved for those assignees on senior-level or C-suite assignments. In the post-pandemic world, however, this is changing. Here's how.

This article is brought to you by AIA Singapore.

Gone are the days when at least 90% of the world’s population, or 7.1bn people, were living in countries with border restrictions. With the pandemic situation having greatly improved, we are now in an era where talent is once again able to move freely across borders, wherever business needs are.

With business travel unlocked, companies are identifying the best ways to manage the health and wellness of their assignees on location. This can be a hurdle for many, given the recessionary trends and inflationary pressures evident in several markets. As such, mobility heads and HR leaders are faced with the dual priorities of ensuring the safekeeping of their workforce’s health while preserving company budgets.

What is needed is a comprehensive international private medical insurance (IPMI) programme for the organisation, also known as a corporate or expatriate group policy, that provides health coverage for expats and their families when living and working overseas. However, traditionally, such coverage has often been reserved as a high-end, premium proposition for assignees on senior-level or C-suite assignments.

Thankfully, in the post-pandemic world, expat insurance has evolved to become more inclusive. Let's deep- dive into some of the trends in the IPMI space that are impacting HR professionals and family offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and across Asia.

IPMI and healthcare trends in the post-pandemic world

#1: The rising calls for better wellness

While trends such as mental health and digitisation have been present for years, it took the impact of COVID-19 to underscore their importance in the post-pandemic workspace. In the new endemic norm, employees are either returning to the office, embracing hybrid working models, or looking to become digital nomads.

With employees working from ‘anywhere’, they need to be insured effectively, and aren’t afraid to ask their employers about this.

In a Singapore survey, healthcare benefits was the second most important type of support workers asked for; while in another poll, employees who rated their employer’s commitment to wellness as "good" said they were 45% more likely to stay loyal to their employer. Clearly, there are valuable rewards to be gained by businesses that choose to focus on employee wellness and healthcare.

#2: Staying on top of workforce retention

Singapore, like all other markets, has seen crests and troughs in its workforce composition since the pandemic. The number of Employment Pass (EP) holders in December 2019, was 193,700. This went down steeply to just 161,700 EP holders in December 2021, before rising to a new normal of 197,300 in June 2023. The data shows that mobility is thriving once again, as Asian markets have opened up for business, enabling employers to once again rejig their workforce composition to overcome talent shortage in hard-to-staff roles or difficult-to-train skills.

This drives home the point on companies developing a future-proof attraction and retention strategy for their talent – be it local or overseas staff. A holistic and comprehensive employee benefits strategy, including medical coverage, is a significant component of this new talent imperative. In fact, we’re fast moving towards a world where employer-sponsored healthcare should be affordable enough for the entire employee population, rather than being restricted to coverage for the C-suite or for expat assignees.

#3 Overcoming industry challenges

It is often rather difficult for employers to keep up with the new offerings and players in the employee benefits space, given the proliferation of new healthcare and insurance legislation across the globe. This complexity is compounded by the fact that each country is different in terms of its healthcare infrastructure, hence adding another layer to consider for organisations that send staff abroad.

The challenges are magnified with the recent consolidation of many IPMI insurers, making it harder for companies to source for a holistic medical coverage solution that also offers maximised value-added services. Further, employers in several sectors are faced with demands on cost and budget management casting greater scrutiny from their stakeholders on employee spend vs returns.

Unlocking new models of medical offerings

To understand how employers can cope with the rising demands on their healthcare decisions, we speak to Kenneth Tan, Chief Corporate Solutions Officer, AIA Singapore, who introduces us to AIA’s newly revamped IPMI product, known as AIA Premier International Medical.

AIA has been supporting Singapore’s community to achieve their health and financial aspirations since 1931. It first launched an IPMI offering in 2022, which has since been refined upon feedback from on-ground users, i.e., employers and the insured on how to cater better to their evolving needs.

Kenneth adds: “Recently due to the pandemic, we have seen people moving from Hong Kong to Singapore, as well as regional offices and family offices shifting to Singapore. This prompted us to relook at our solution and we saw a demand for high-end IPMI coverage that is inclusive for the workforce.”

These developments led to the launch of AIA Singapore’s recent IPMI product, AIA Premier International Medical, which provides comprehensive medical benefits with high annual limits to cater to the needs of global talent of businesses ranging from SMEs to MNCs. There are a few variations of the plan designs, ranging from traditional IPMI to hybrid IPMI solutions.

In differentiating this new offering from a traditional IPMI solution, Kenneth explains: "Traditional IPMI coverage tends to get more expensive each year, because it is driven by both medical inflation and wage inflation.”

The bills can really add up for employers, seeing as a full-IPMI plan often has coverage up to S$3-5mn. Further, such plans don’t typically carry sub-inner limits, meaning everything is paid up to the plan limits. On the other hand, in a hybrid IPMI offering, the limits could be lower, starting from half-a-million dollars.

Kenneth explains further that looking at the cost drivers in both plans is critical, seeing as cancer coverage remains a key cost driver. “Cancer treatments are getting more expensive, with advancements in medical sciences as well as early detection. So, one of the key differences in this hybrid IPMI is to set limits for such key treatments.”

This translates into more affordable premiums for employers, while ensuring employees’ coverage is not compromised and remains comprehensive.

In this programme, customisations for full IPMI coverage are also possible for larger workforce groups, and the AIA team is also able to cater to different benefit philosophies and budgets. Further customisation options include removing annual limits for cancer treatments, as well as the capability to customise annual limits to match existing limits. 

Apart from better cost management, employers will also benefit from value-added services for all insured members of AIA Premier International Medical, the first of which is telehealth and teleconsultation.

Virtual medical services are being utilised a lot more during the endemic era. As such, AIA Singapore has invested in building a strong and extensive health and wellness partner ecosystem to provide clients with comprehensive support geared towards positive health outcomes from these partner services. Kenneth shares: “Coming out of the pandemic has certainly accelerated the utilisation or awareness of telehealth.

Teleconsultations on WhiteCoat, AIA Singapore’s exclusive digital healthcare partner, have gone up seven, eight-fold.”

Not only has the frequency gone up, but also the range of telemedicine at AIA Singapore now extends beyond general practitioner (GP) coverage, to include specialist coverages, mental health coverage, and more.

This has helped both employers and employees alike. “We have created or, in some cases, improved productivity, because you no longer have to step out of the office, or your home to get the medical treatment that you need.”

All in all, AIA’s Premier International Medical Insurance is a comprehensive and premium high-end medical health insurance plan that offers holistic and extensive geographic coverage for global talents. Here are some additional features of the package that make healthcare more convenient for employers:

  1. Choice between local plus or IPMI high annual benefit
  2. Choice of Asia, worldwide excluding US, or
  3. Choice of five optional riders, and the ability to manage claims cost with co-insurance
  4. The ability to offer benefits customisation to suit the clients’ needs and budgets for large groups.
  5. Medical History Disregarded (MHD) option offered for small groups with a minimum of 11 lives (including dependents) to waive
  6. A dedicated 24/7 Premier Service Centre for AIA PIM insured members.
  7. With over 3,000 panel GP clinics and 1,400 panel specialist clinics worldwide, AIA’s medical network also covers regional outpatient facilities and telemedicine.
  8. Offering digital capabilities, AIA e-Benefits is a convenient 24/7 platform, backed by an easy-to-use mobile app and online interface for employees to review their corporate insurance coverage, submit claims, check claim status, locate network clinics, and access their medical e-Card

Looking around for employee benefit providers, one tends to worry that the number of IPMI insurers around the world have been consolidating and it's largely because the model is not sustainable or the costs of operations are very high.

However, Kenneth is confident on AIA Singapore’s capability to not only sustain in the long run, but pass on the benefits of economies of scale in the form of more affordable premiums for companies and their employees.

He concludes: “AIA Singapore definitively has the financial strength to provide sustainable and differentiated coverage, including a one-stop compelling solution across all employee benefit needs, for different segments of the workforce.”

For more information on AIA employee benefits, please refer to the website here: https://aia.com.sg/premier-international-medical or email sg.eb.crmdirect@aia.com

Lead image / Provided by AIA

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