The Rise of the Digital Nomad: IMG Launch Global Prima Medical Insurance Plan

Living and working abroad is becoming increasingly common, but it is critical that expatriates are offered healthcare coverage that meets the changing expectations and needs of today’s internationally mobile citizens, says Kevin Melton, Global Head of IPMI (international private medical insurance) at International Medical Group (IMG).

In recent years, we have seen a rising trend – the emergence of the digital nomad. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice of remote working has become increasingly common and made it more feasible for people to live and work anywhere.

The pandemic gave many people the urge to travel after months of being confined to one place, and the pent-up desire to broaden horizons has also swelled the number of global citizens we see today.

Living outside of one’s home country is a trend that has risen over the last five decades. The 2020 World Migration Report by the International Organisation for Migration showed there were 281 million international migrants in the world, which equates to 3.6% of the global population. The estimated number of people living in a country other than that of their birth was 128 million more in 2020 than in 1990 and over three times the estimated number in 1970.

While some of these migrants were fleeing war or poverty, these figures also highlight a huge potential market in the international health insurance space. There have always been expatriates, but today, the term doesn’t describe everyone who chooses to live away from home.

Traditionally, people going to work abroad for big corporations, the larger embassies, and non-governmental organizations are provided with an expatriate package that covers the cost of housing, schools, and health in their new country.

However, people are increasingly operating in a more independent way, working for companies that only give them local benefits, which means they need health coverage for themselves, their partner, and children.

There are many reasons other than work that lead people to relocate to another country – from travellers who want to explore new worlds, to students on exchanges, or those who simply just want to “up sticks” and enjoy a different lifestyle.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, and their health needs and insurance coverage vary as much as their reasons for living away from home – whether that’s a couple retiring to Cyprus, or a company that has set up a new brand in Singapore and needs to provide employee health care.

At IMG, we specialise in providing international health coverage – that includes local health care provision intelligence gathered from data – for small and medium-sized enterprises, smaller embassies, and individuals.

Customer expectations have changed in recent years, and it’s important that the international private medical insurance (IPMI) market responds to individual health needs using the most up-to-date technology and data to enhance the vital service we provide.

For instance, people today are as concerned about mental wellness and general wellbeing as they are about physical health, and while online telehealth consultations were an optional add-on to policies before the pandemic, now they are regarded as essential.

At IMG we recognise the changes in the burgeoning IPMI market and have launched a new plan for expats and globally mobile citizens that can be tailored to individual needs and budgets.

Global Prima Medical Insurance (Global Prima) provides worldwide cover and world-class health services to individuals, families, and groups living or working outside their home country, typically for one year or longer.

The new product offers various cover options that can cover chronic conditions, as well as complementary medicine, mental health, and wellbeing treatment options. Customers can also customise their plan, which has a choice of excess and currency payment options and includes access to a round-the-clock assistance services hotline offering help with claims information, emergency assistance, and advice on treatment.

There are five plan levels available with Global Prima, starting with the cost-effective Bronze plan that predominantly focuses on in-patient care for a private room in a private hospital and covers surgery and associated costs.

As you go up through the plan levels, there are more benefits with higher limits and outpatient treatments. Our four highest plan levels include telemedicine, which provides 24/7 online and telephone access to a network of medical professionals to discuss non-emergency medical issues. The two highest plan levels also offer access to telemedicine for mental health support. The highest-level Platinum plan is suited to the high-net-worth market and includes all the aforementioned benefits as well as vaccinations, optical care, IVF, dental, and chronic conditions.

The flexible nature of Global Prima allows customers the choice of adding maternity and dental benefits, which are big cost drivers, to any tier. There is also a digital portal to submit claims online, pay premiums, and receive reimbursements.

Global Prima plans also provide a good solution to satisfy the requirements and expectations of ‘Health Tourism’ – an increasing trend involving international travel for health treatment.

The rise of the digital nomad means this is an opportune time to launch the Global Prima product range, as people can do the same job as easily from the Caribbean as from their home country, but they are also aware they need coverage for hospital costs aligned to those in the U.S. In Britain, people may not recognize the extent of health care costs in other countries as they are accustomed to the National Health Service. It can come as an eye-opener – and a nasty shock – to be taken to the hospital with a burst appendix and be presented with a $20,000 bill for an in-patient stay afterward.

It can work both ways, though. Our five-tier plan provides the appropriate level of coverage for different countries. For instance, several oil and digital companies are setting up shop in Africa, where health care costs are much lower than in Europe, so a Platinum plan may not be as necessary.

However, in the event of a serious, life-threatening condition in a developing country, most people prefer to return to their home country. This allows them to be in a familiar culture where they know the language and facilities and can be with friends and family. All our plans come with repatriation and evacuation benefits, and we provide a travel intelligence benefit that gives an overview of the health facilities available in different countries.

While there are many elements and challenges involved in an international move, IMG is here to make health care as simple and straightforward as possible.

About the Author

Kevin has over 35 years of experience in the medical insurance and group markets space. For the last 20 years, he has worked in the international healthcare market in a variety of senior and board-level distribution positions with a global remit. Kevin has previously worked for Allianz, Vanbreda, and Axa before joining IMG in September 2021. Kevin specialises in identification and distribution of key geographic and industry specific opportunities, sales distribution strategy, and building and maintaining key partner strategic relationships. As the Global Head of IPMI at IMG, Kevin is responsible for maintaining and growing IMG's IPMI portfolio segment, primarily focusing on individual and SME business opportunities.

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