Most visitors won’t know that Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, is the longest city name in the world (when spelled authentically its more than 167 letters), but they’ll probably recognize a more common appellation – Bumrungrad International – the name of the largest private hospital and one of the most well-known medical centers in Southeast Asia.
Shifting Needs for Expatriates in Asia
At this year’s Congress, director of marketing at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Kenneth Mays, addressed issues surrounding healthcare and health insurance for expatriates in Asia, giving us a closer look at the medical resources and benefits available to the abundant population of long-term foreign residents in countries such as Thailand.
Mays’ home institution was the first JCI-accredited hospital in Asia and has since seen more than 3 million patients in its 554 beds. As Asian countries continue to experience an influx of new permanent foreign residents such as retirees, trailing spouses, technical experts, consultants and experienced managers, facilities like Bumrungrad will be a medical home away from home for expats seeking universally-renowned patient services.
However, one essential component of health abroad, of course, is medical insurance, and Mays noted that the needs of expats in this realm are quickly changing. With the growing number of internationals that want to work in Asia, health insurance companies have come forth with more amenities, including better educated and trained locals and regional Asians who are more inclined to adapt culturally, highlighted Mays.
This in turn has resulted in fewer “expat packages” with gold-plated health benefits: “A large, new generation of expat opportunity-seekers is willing to settle for local contracts and benefits, with care in-country or at regional referral centers.”
Choices in International Care
International health insurance companies such as Global Benefits Group (GBG), an international insurance underwriter of health, life, disability insurance and special risks, which focuses on expatriates and high net-worth locals, has expanded their networks and built better customer services in response to foreign resident growth.
This organization has clients in more than 60 countries and is a fully integrated administrator of international insurance products; providing plan design, customer/member services, claims adjudication and more. Expatriates can choose among worldwide, regional and local coverage; U.S. model or European model services; as well as group vs. individual coverage in addition to other options.
Some international benefits include evacuation coverage – evacuation to home country or to closest available country that can provide treatment – along with repatriation coverage and assistance with language and cultural issues.
Room for Expansion
There are boundless opportunities for growth in developing countries around the world and with more progress comes more expansive networks, benefits and customer services that can cater to a global clientele. Where hospitals such as Bumrungrad reflect the increased globalization of the shrinking world, it is only partially indicative of the wide scope of options international patients and expats seek with global health insurance plans.
Staying true to its name nonetheless – Bumrungrad, which means “care for the people” in Thai – is reflective of the common goal in medicine, and more, underscores the universal objective in medical service provision be it local or worldwide.
About the Authors:
Renée-Marie Stephano is the President of the Medical Tourism Association™. Ms. Stephano is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Tourism Magazine, Health Tourism Magazine and Healthcare Development Magazine. Having a background in international marketing and relations, health law and litigation, she provides a valuable service to the Medical Tourism Association™ in these fields. She may be reached at Renee@MedicalTourismAssociation.com.
Brandon Samuels is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a contributor to the editorial staff for the Medical Tourism AssociationTM. Developing an early interest in health, Brandon completed a four-year Medical Magnet Careers program, which led to experience working in areas of nursing, radiology and dermatology.