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Recortes de Prensa

Compulsory health insurance has become ‘fashionable’

The Daily Telegraph, 21 | 09 | 2009 - Noticia

Dubai had plans for compulsory health insurance for expats but the economic downturn caused a rethink to avoid exacerbating the exodus of foreign nationals

Against the background of the credit crisis and escalating health care costs a joint Home Office and Department of Health group in Britain is “to consult further on the feasibility and merits of introducing a mandatory health insurance requirement for certain non-residents at a future date,” according to a recent official statement.

Should the British government decide that compulsory health insurance for foreign nationals living in the UK were the right thing to do, they would be on trend. Over recent years, France, Holland, some Swiss cantons, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi have introduced mandatory insurance either for their whole populations or for their expat communities.

The Australian government has given tax breaks for the privately insured – an offer taken up by four in 10 Australians.

Paul Weigall, the head of sales at insurer Interglobal, said: “There is no doubt compulsory health insurance is flavour of the month.

“Qatar, Kuwait, Dubai are looking at it – and a number of other countries are considering it. There’s some compulsion already in Spain.”

Dubai declared plans to follow Abu Dhabi’s move of three years back. The credit crunch hit Dubai harder than the other emirates. The property market crashed, along with plans for mandatory insurance – for the time being.

Mr Weigall explained: “The one thing Dubai doesn’t want is to encourage the exodus – or any further exodus – of expats.

“They’ve had a big outflow and introducing penal health insurance legislation, as they’ve done in Abu Dhabi, could accentuate it.”

Mr Weigall said the trend manifested itself differently in different places, with countries setting varying legal requirements.

In addition, licences to operate and sell policies depend on international insurers having local commercial ties.

Interglobal has 30 fronting or reinsurance arrangements around the world, as well as regional hubs in Singapore and Dubai. That put the company in a strong position, Mr Weigall said.

Many insurers are forced to sell offshore as they are unlicensed for selling within the territory – a situation applying particularly in China, where licensing procedures are difficult. However, moves towards compulsory cover for foreign nationals have been slower to take off in Asia.

Stephen Ryan, the managing director of health care at AXA Asia, said: “Unlike some of the European and Middle East markets, there isn’t such a dependency on the governments of most Asian countries to both provide and fully fund the provision of health care.

“Many of the Asian countries feature both state and privately developed health care facilities but the costs for both need to be met by the user – either through insurance or, more typically at present, from out-of-pocket expenditure.”

Mr Ryan added that health insurance was still very much an emerging market in India and many other Asian countries. “My prediction is that it will be a few years before the wider insurance markets will become compulsory in these countries,” he said.

Even expats who do their best to comply with requirements to hold valid medical cover can come unstuck. Carl Carter, the chairman of the Association of International Medical Insurance Providers, said that apparently well-prepared individuals had been turned away at ports of entry because their papers did not comply. Abu Dhabi was the state most likely to put arrivals on the next plane home.

However, all countries where insurance for expats is compulsory specify the plans they recognise, since government health funds have an interest in not getting landed with medical bills if an insurer collapses or defaults on its obligations.

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