Healthcare insurance: what expatriates now expect

The expatriate population is growing significantly in numbers (+ 3% to 4% per year) and also changing in composition.  As it becomes increasingly diverse with more women and young people, there are, consequently, new requirements in the field of healthcare insurance.

A changing expatriate population

With only 48% men, the French expatriate community is becoming increasingly female and is also seeing a rise in the numbers of younger people. The age distribution is therefore fairly well balanced with only seniors being under-represented.

Also, pay scales are tending to broaden out and being an expatriate is no longer always synonymous with affluence: 25% of French expatriates have an annual salary of less than €30,000. With only 40% of spouses in employment, women exert a strong influence over the management of family healthcare but unfortunately are sometimes in a situation where they can feel isolated.

Generally speaking, expatriates remain attached to French-style protection with generous medical cover: no excess, high reimbursement caps, reimbursements based on actual costs, hospitalisation cover with no cash advance required from the insured and reliable dental, optical and maternity cover.

Finally, because they are far from home, expatriates attach particular importance to the quality of the management of their medical claims, in particular knowing that expensive international phone calls will be dealt with professionally and efficiently by someone who understands their position. They also expect deadlines to be met.

New trends in healthcare consumption

These developments in the expatriate population have led to new requirements. The increase in the number of different expatriate profiles has led to a high demand for customised expatriate healthcare insurance which will meet both the professional and personal needs of the insured. "Entrepreneurial consumers” are demanding contemporary, clearly drafted stand-alone benefits which they can combine to create the best solution for their personal circumstances.

So, over and above traditional curative medicine, the most affluent expatriates are looking for "wellness" care allowing them not just to prevent disease and improve their quality of life but also to select the type of care that suits them best. Cover for alternative medicine, preventive care (such as check-ups or screening for example), and “comfort" care (such as laser treatment of myopia, thermal cure or spa treatments) is therefore hugely popular.

At the same time, there is a worrying increase in stress-related complaints, exacerbated by the fact of living abroad. To cope with the temporary or recurring difficulties that come with living abroad, expatriates expect practical help and support (through the provision of counselling services for example).

Finally, there are other types of expatriate who want only minimum cover, limiting themselves to protection against life’s "hard knocks" at the best price.

Date of publication May 10 2012

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