How to ensure an all-round insurance package for UAE employees

Seven factors for companies to consider when shopping for staff medical insurance, according to Carole Khalife of Al Futtaim Willis.

There can be a vast disconnect between what employers and employees regard as most valuable in terms of medical insurance coverage. As a result, it’s common to see employers paying money for benefits that are rarely (if ever) utilised, while disregarding key potential benefits that may not even cost anything extra to add to the policy.

When it comes to shopping around for medical insurance for your company, asking the right questions could avoid countless headaches and ensure you and your employees are covered for the eventualities that are most relevant to your organisational and team needs.

Here are key seven areas to help you make the best decision:

1. Continuity of coverage and guaranteed renewability

Seeking the best medical insurance for employees should also consider “life beyond” your company for your team. That’s because one of the biggest concerns employees have when it comes to their policy is what happens after their employment ends. It can be difficult to find an insurer ready to take someone on after they have returned to their home country – especially if the individual is older or has a chronic medical condition. As such, insurance companies are only likely to offer policies that exclude any pre-existing conditions. This is why it is important for employers to negotiate an arrangement from the outset that includes continuity of coverage for the beneficiary. This may incur an additional percentage fee, depending on the policy and the size of your potential contract with them.

2. Visibility over claim utilisation

There is often an ambivalent approach to addressing the financial side of the decision-making process – even though this can be made very clear via claims reports. By compiling information on what has historically been spent on claims, you can adjust the priority levels you attach to the benefits you pay for. And by compiling data before policies are placed, you should have a crucial head start when it comes to assessing the cost of required coverage. For example, you can review the levels of inpatient and outpatient claims being made, establish what percentage of outpatient claims are made in hospitals, identify the top 10 diagnoses your population is suffering from, and so on. This is crucial in the avoidable claims analysis, as it will shed light on the important benefits you need to add.

3. Technology

An insurer that offers a range of quick and easy digital options for its users is essential in this digital age. Access to health insurance provider portals, for example, cuts down on administrative work involved for the employer and the employee.

4. Wellness components

Prevention is indeed the best medicine. What we eat, how we sleep, our exercise routine and many other lifestyle factors all play a role in whether we get sick or stay healthy. The duty of an employer here is not to be ignored. Success in motivating your employees to take care of themselves will always help to control a company’s rising medical costs; the rate of obesity in the UAE is almost double the world average – at about 60 per cent of the total population – and 40 per cent of the population suffers from hypertension. Employers wanting to make a difference can start with some basic health screening to get a benchmark of overall health at the company, and based on the results can set up wellness initiatives to address the main conditions. Studies carried out by the American workplace wellness consultancy the Chapman Institute found that proper investment in employee wellness can lead to a 25 per cent reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, and a 25 per cent reduction in health costs.

5. Customised benefits

Being able to tweak benefits to suit individual requirements is essential when picking an insurer. It’s not vital to offer your employees every insurance benefit under the sun, but you can tailor your offerings so they include options that suit your employee demographic.

6. Comply with local laws

It’s vital that employers pay heed to the local laws and regulations. You can only deal with brokers and carriers that are lic­ensed to work in your country of interest, and the big issue on the table now is in Dubai, where mandatory health insurance is now in the final stages of implementation across the emirate.

7. Rewards

An employee who is self-moti­vated when it comes to maintaining their own personal health and wellness is more likely to be part of the solution when it comes to the rising cost of health care, and of course more likely to be a productive operator around the workplace – meaning the very serious and expensive issue of “presenteeism” is addressed. If employers can harness this motivation by offering your staff rewards to pursue a healthy lifestyle, you are virtually guaranteeing a more positive output. This can include free gym memberships, healthy meal vouchers, direct cash savings in the form of credits applied to medical deductibles and more. The goal is to tackle out-of-control health care spending by addressing the root cause – those unhealthy lifestyles of ours that are leading to chronic disease.

Carole Khalife is head of human capital and employee benefits at Al Futtaim Willis.

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