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Operating across Africa? Why consolidating employee health insurance is a must

June 15, 2017

If your company has several bases across Africa and you’ve opted for a decentralised approach to employees’ health insurance, you’re almost certainly missing out on great savings – not to mention attractive, tailor-made packages and a slick, efficient admin process. Whether you have regional offices, subsidiaries or even project sites, co-ordinating your health insurance through a single broker or advisory company makes great business sense.

The most obvious benefit is, of course, economies of scale. The larger the number of people needing cover, the more inclined – and able – providers will be to offer an attractive deal. But finances aside, having a larger group of people to insure will give a broker more leverage when it comes to arranging bespoke products to suit your company’s unique needs.

Let’s take a more detailed look at some of the many ways your business stands to gain from arranging your Africa-based health insurance through a single broker.

The best possible deal

The more people you’re covering under a health insurance policy, the better the deal you’re likely to get. Insurers are more likely to offer attractive premiums for a large group in order to secure your business, even if some of the people covered have chronic conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, which would normally push up the price for individuals or small groups.

This is because the low number of claims overall will balance out the higher number expected from individuals with ongoing health concerns. If your business is small to medium-sized (an SME), grouping geographically dispersed employees together will help you insure them for a better overall price than would be possible if you arranged insurance for each African base separately.

If your business is small to medium-sized (an SME), grouping geographically dispersed employees together will help you insure them for a better overall price than would be possible if you arranged insurance for each African base separately.

Coverage tailored to your company’s needs

While you could go direct to an insurance provider, a broker will be better able to search the market for the best products to suit your needs. They can help you make savings in other ways too, such as advising you on different levels of coverage that might be appropriate for different categories of employee.

For example, you could provide international private medical insurance (IPMI) just for the most senior staff or those who travel frequently on business. For others, you might offer regional medical insurance, perhaps with provision for emergency assistance and evacuation in case they need medical treatment that isn’t generally available where they are working. You may also want to provide additional coverage for things such as disability or accidental death for those who work in more challenging environments.

Your broker will be able to advise you, taking into account your people strategy and the risks faced by your employees in specific areas or roles. And as an added bonus, if you arrange all your insurance through one broker, they may reward your loyalty with a multi-policy discount.

An insurance broker or adviser who is established in Africa will be well placed to arrange cover to suit your needs owing to their experience in the area and relationship with providers.

In addition they will be able to help you make the most efficient arrangements, for example avoiding overlaps between policies. Again, this will help to keep the overall cost of premiums down.

Specific knowledge of the African market

Of course the reality is that medical provision in some parts of Africa is very poor. For example in Mozambique’s Tete province, there were just 63 doctors for two million inhabitants in 2013.

Some areas pose specific health challenges. Malaria is endemic in Cote D’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Plague is endemic in part of the DRC. And at the time of writing there is a dengue fever outbreak in Kenya and Ebola has recently resurfaced in the DRC.

Certain roles in particular industries bring risks, too. In 2016 the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) announced that mining was the country’s most dangerous industry for workers. That year 2,662 injuries and 73 fatalities were reported at mining operations in South Africa. Miners also face high levels of occupational health issues, such as the lung disease silicosis and noise-induced hearing loss. Naturally this will affect cover.

So you may want to provide modular insurance coverage that takes factors such as these into account. A good insurance adviser with experience of the African market will be able to suggest appropriate options.

Unified benefits for staff across the region

If you arrange employee health insurance on a country-by-country basis, you’re likely to end up with a mishmash of different levels of coverage.

On the other hand, using a single broker to arrange health insurance for employees across the continent is a great way to make sure people benefit from equally good coverage wherever they are based. This can be a real selling point when it comes to attracting new employees, and the sense of being treated equally will encourage existing employees to stick with you.

In 2016, MetLife’s first Employee Benefit Trends study carried out in Africa found that benefits such as health insurance were a major reason why 52% of people stay loyal to their current employer. And while 37% said they would like to change employer within the next 12 months, 47% admitted that improved benefits would encourage them to stay. 

Transferability

Taking a pan-African approach to arranging health insurance is a good idea if you have staff who move between locations and stay for extended periods of time. For example, you might have supervisors who relocate to oversee construction projects in different countries or senior executives who move between countries every few years.

Providing all these employees with suitable regional or international cover will ensure that they can seamlessly move to different bases without the need to re-arrange their health insurance each time. In addition to avoiding unnecessary administration, this will stop issues such as a pre-existing medical condition remaining uncovered for a certain period after a new policy comes into effect, or even being permanently excluded.

Streamlined administration

One of the biggest benefits of using a single insurance broker to arrange health insurance across Africa is the ease of administration. The HR team at your head office will be able to liaise with a single point of contact when arranging coverage, renewing it and submitting claims.

One of the biggest benefits of using a single insurance broker to arrange health insurance across Africa is the ease of administration.

When you need to make a claim, your insurance adviser will be able interact with the claims department on your company’s behalf and make sure it’s resolved as quickly as possible for the highest possible settlement. When a claim is rejected, they may be able to contest the decision on your behalf.

In short, relying on one trusted company to handle all your insurance needs across Africa will cut your overall administrative burden and make sure things are handled as efficiently as possible.

How to implement a consolidated health insurance approach

Here are some key steps for you to ensure your employees receive the best coverage across Africa. 

Identify the relevant countries: Before you contact a broker to discuss your needs, list the countries within Africa where you have personnel. You might also want to list countries where you have potential projects coming up.

Establish the risk factors for each of these countries: As previously mentioned, infectious diseases including malaria are significant factors in many parts of Africa, while certain roles in particular industries bring specific risks. Also consider whether you have staff in areas where local health treatment just isn’t an option, or countries on which international sanctions have been imposed. Make a list of important points to discuss with your broker.

Know your numbers: For each country, list the total number of employees who need coverage and the numbers who fall into certain categories, for example senior executives, expats and those whose jobs involve a higher level of risk.

Take stock of current costs: Collate details from all your current insurance buyers across Africa to get a clear idea of your existing spending on health insurance in each country.

Find the right broker: Do your research to find an established broker with experience of the African market and arrange an initial consultation. This will be a good opportunity to discuss your needs, establish that the broker is able to meet them at a cost that fits your budget, and not least, to assess whether you strike up a rapport with the adviser. If all goes well, they could become a valued long-term partner to your business.

A good advisory company will be happy to provide you with ongoing consultancy free of charge, as they will be recompensed through commission once they arrange your insurance. After all, it’s in their interest to make sure they are providing you with the best service possible to secure your loyalty.

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.