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Top-up health insurance plans for C-suite company executives

May 1, 2017

Health insurance is not only an essential element of an employee benefits package, but a key component in attracting and retaining high-calibre talent. In Dubai, it’s mandatory for employers to provide it, while in Abu Dhabi they must also add cover for dependents.

However, the standard of coverage is sometimes lower than most senior executives would expect, particularly those at C-suite level – that is, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and similar. With this in mind, permanent international private medical insurance plans (IPMIs) are well placed to provide a better way for C-suite executives to take care of themselves and their families in the UAE. They function essentially by ‘topping up’ an executive’s existing local plan, so they work in sync with each other.

Currently, the health insurance plans that many companies provide are both local (and very limited) and don’t provide long-term cover. In fact, many companies offer the same level of health coverage for all employees, whatever their position, and budget restrictions mean that this is usually not the best possible cover. It’s quite common to find that the standard policy is a local one that only covers care with a fairly limited network of providers within the country or region.

So whether you’re involved in making decisions about the health cover for your employees or you’re an executive who is dissatisfied with your current health insurance, there is much to think about when it comes to permanent international private medical insurance. 

Why all parties benefit when the C-suite has optimum health cover

The reality is that in order to hold on to the best people in senior roles, it’s often necessary to offer more than the competition. A 2014 study found 53% of employees in the UAE who were considering leaving their jobs could be tempted to stay with better benefits. So it’s clear that a benefits package can play an important role in an employee’s decision to stay or move, and the more senior the role in question, the higher candidates’ expectations are likely to be.

A 2014 study found 53% of employees in the UAE who were considering leaving their jobs could be tempted to stay with better benefits.

C-suite executives also often have special requirements. For instance, some job markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have a high percentage of expat workers. Senior executives based far from home may well have dependants living with them for whom they must provide health cover. If their previous company provided international health insurance cover for their partner and children as part of their benefits package, they will certainly be reluctant to move to one that doesn’t, unless their salary goes up sufficiently to offset the difference.

In addition, international executives often travel as part of their role, so it makes sense to ensure they are covered in case they need urgent treatment while abroad for work. Of course, temporary international cover for the duration of their trip is an option but if travelling on a frequent basis, the additional administration involved may mean that switching to a permanent international policy would make more sense.

But it’s not just emergency cover while abroad that’s the issue. Employees highly value the ability to travel specifically for health treatment – in fact, 83% of employees of all levels expressed an interest in being able to seek treatment abroad. This means that senior staff will appreciate insurance that covers evacuation to the country of their choice, whether it’s their native country or a centre of excellence elsewhere.

Those with young children would also value cover for companion travel, so they could accompany a child evacuated for health reasons at no extra cost. And executives with children at boarding school or university abroad would certainly appreciate the ability to cover them with the same policy as the rest of the family.

In fact, many senior employees would prefer to use the higher standard of care facilities only accessible to those with international private health insurance, regardless of their country of origin. This applies wherever your company is based. An added bonus is that it will probably mean shorter waiting times too, which is important for busy executives.

Another factor to consider is full coverage for chronic conditions. We are all more likely to suffer from chronic diseases (such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease) as we age, and senior staff are more likely to be middle-aged or older. 

Pulling all the factors together

If you’re involved in setting your company’s benefits strategy, it’s important to take the factors mentioned above into account when agreeing the levels of cover you provide. You could either offer a superlative set of health benefits to everyone taking on a C-suite role, or include discussions on coverage levels as part of salary negotiations.

You could either offer a superlative set of health benefits to everyone taking on a C-suite role, or include discussions on coverage levels as part of salary negotiations.

Alternatively, you could introduce a flexible benefits programme, where employees can select the benefits they want up to a certain coverage value, setting the limits according to rank or pay band. Possibilities might include dental, optical, disability and life cover as well as enhanced maternity cover. Your insurance adviser may be able to set you up with an online portal to facilitate this.

If you’re a C-level executive and everything we have discussed sounds not just desirable but necessary, then topping up your existing local health cover with a permanent international plan could remedy this.

In the end, for both parties the success of a business hinges on the leadership of its senior staff, so looking after them well is a wise investment. 

What if your employer doesn’t provide the cover you want?

For senior executives, if you’re moving from a company that does provide the cover you want to one that doesn’t, look into whether it might be possible to transfer your existing plan into your own control. Many international health insurance providers offer this option.

For senior executives, if you’re moving from a company that does provide the cover you want to one that doesn’t, look into whether it might be possible to transfer your existing plan into your own control.

An extra benefit of doing this is that you will be able to keep the same health insurance plan for life, even after you retire. You will also not have to worry about any pre-existing conditions not being covered, and your premium will be based on the normal underwriting policies and practices of the provider.

If your employer isn’t willing to fund the health cover you want for yourself and your family, try asking friends and colleagues if they can recommend an insurance adviser or broker. They will be able to help you secure the best possible deal for the top-up cover you need to put your mind at rest. Once you’ve found an adviser you have a good rapport with, they can become a valued partner for life.

Stepping up to better C-suite health cover

If you’re one of the people involved in making health insurance decisions for your organisation, it pays to give careful consideration to the preferences of senior staff when deciding what health cover to offer them. If you currently provide employees at all grades with the same, fairly basic level of cover, think seriously about offering at least the option of more comprehensive coverage for your C-suite executives. It could be key to attracting and retaining the best possible leaders, maximising the success of your business.

If you’re a senior executive and are dissatisfied with the health cover you’re currently being offered, speak to the HR team about your concerns. If your employer doesn’t offer an option for protecting your own health (and that of your family) that you deem sufficient, discuss your situation with an insurance adviser who can explain the options and recommend the best approach.

After all, there’s nothing more important than looking after your health and that of those closest to you.

About the author: Alniz Popat, Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Alniz founded Lifecare 20 years ago in his native country Kenya to address the growing need for individual and corporate health insurance solutions. Soon thereafter Alniz expanded into Dubai, and in recent years he added yet another office with the establishment of Lifecare’s presence in Qatar. As CEO of Lifecare Alniz is responsible for the strategic direction of the business, and it is his drive and passion to help people get the right healthcare through affordable insurance that has resulted in Lifecare’s strong growth over the years. Today Alniz proudly oversees 100 caring and passionate employees who work tirelessly to deliver an excellent service to the 1,200 businesses and 25,000 members who are part of the Lifecare client portfolio. Alniz is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Canada in Finance and Economics, and is an active member of the Young Presidents’ Organisation in Kenya, and the World Presidents’ Organisation in the United Arab Emirates.