Private international medical insurance is hugely important for providers, particularly around the end of the year - those who do not provide this option are encouraged to read ahead and research this option further.
If you already represent a number of sectors, you might wonder how the addition IPMI could make any kind of impact on your existing numbers.
The IPMI market, especially in Asia, is one of the last growth areas for health insurance. With five out of the top 10 countries in the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2011 located in Asia, there is a clear signal that Asia continues to be a favoured location for IPMI's classic target audience. Many providers are now also able to offer cover to local nationals as well as expats, which widens the target base even further.
The products and regulatory framework are relatively simple, which means that it's a quick process to learn and get any of the necessary approvals.
Retention rates for this market remain high, with the market average around the mid-to-high 80% range, so customers are likely to stay once they've bought.
Commission rates start at around 15% for new business and are also payable on renewal, so a USD 100,000 book could earn USD 60,000 in four years.
Assessing your customer's needs
So with an existing book of customers to review, what's the best way to assess if your customers have a need and what kind of plan would fit the bill?
There are three simple steps to take:
Review any existing cover already in place
It's likely that many of your clients will already have some kind of health insurance in place and it's important to start with an assessment of the current cover.
If your client has a local plan in place, a review of the annual maximum benefit limit, the sub-limits and any excess or deductible, against their current lifestyle and expectations is the best place to start.
Expat or local national?
Expat clients often have a clear need for IPMI because they want the option to return to their home country for treatment.
The most recent development within the IPMI customer base is the addition of local nationals to the mix. Many providers are now able to offer customers resident in selected locations the opportunity to buy. Assessing the demand for this segment is not as clear-cut, since the desire to seek treatment internationally is driven by more emotional needs such as wanting better quality care and more choice and control over treatment plans. A good way to start with this segment is reviewing any second homes or international business travel.
What kind of product?
There are three basic elements in assessing your clients' needs:
• Do they need access to out-patient care or is in/day-patient care sufficient?
• Do they need access to routine and complex dental care?
• Do they need access to routine maternity care?
It's worth noting that dental and maternity benefits are always subject to waiting periods before the benefits can be accessed. If you have a client on a similar plan however, they may be transferred onto a new plan with no break in cover and all waiting periods removed.
Of course, your client can tell you that they need top-end out-patient, dental and maternity benefits but if the premium is out of their range, there are a number of things you can do to maintain the levels of cover without breaking the bank.
Many providers provide a wide range of excesses on plans to reduce the premium. These can be anything from zero to USD 15,000 or more.
There are also co-insurance options, where clients pay a portion of costs with the insurance provider, which can also provide significant cost savings.
Some providers also offer significant discounts if they are prepared to seek treatment in a semi-private hospital room as opposed to a private one.
Choosing a provider
So once a full assessment of the client's needs has been completed, who are the best providers in the market and what's the best way to choose them.
Making sure that you ask the right questions is key. Common complaints in this market are mostly claim-related. The time it takes to reimburse claims, the instance of declined claims, getting underwritten at the point of claim, are some of the most common.
A checklist for finding the right provider could be:
- Are they a big insurer with an international division or a specialist?
- What are the maximum limits on their plans, especially the sub limits?
- How do they underwrite customers? Full medical underwriting or moratorium?
- What are their turnaround times? i.e. how quickly do they pay claims and make decisions?
- What claim tracking tools do they have in place?
- How extensive is their medical provider list?
- Do they manage claims from one location or are there on-the-ground experts?
What is true about the IPMI market is that it is one of the last insurance segments that can demonstrate continued and sustained growth with solid retention rates and margin-rich commission levels.
You could make important gains with IPMI with relatively little effort - why wait?