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    Employee Benefits also known as Group Medical Insurance, it does exactly what it says providing employees with medical insurance as per UAE regulations to ensure that all employees have access to clinics and hospitals within the region with different levels and quality of cover being provided.

    But is it more than that?

    I sat down with Amir Hussain (Head of Employee Benefits & Corporate Specialist) at InsuranceMarket.ae™ and the saying “he knows his stuff” is often thrown around but having not only interviewed Amir on this subject but having spent time alongside him for client meetings…. He really does “know his stuff.”

    Amir: “So, I got into the industry back in the UK through financial services with the likes of  Britannia. I moved on to become an IFA with Edward Jones in Canary Wharf 16 years ago, I came out to Dubai to visit and I’ve been here since. So yeah, I’ve been in the employee benefits space in the UAE for 16 years now on both sides of the fence as a broker and as an insurer.”

    From initial talks with Amir and even during the interview, It became very clear that there is more to Group Medical Insurance than may meet the eye and it can be summed up by Amir’s title which happens to mention “Employee Benefits” rather than “Group Medical” and that is the point, this is not just a tick box exercise, although it may be for some, but it is more a case of providing actual benefits for your employees.

    Why is that important? Well, I would suggest that almost every employer would prefer to have happier and healthier employees as there is a very good chance this may just lead to improved performance within the workplace, perhaps less time off sick and ultimately can even help to attract the very best people to your company as they are being offered a “benefits” through their medical insurance.

    This is where personally I think the awareness of seeing this as a benefit rather than a must have, comes into play and perhaps the view on this from some employers is that this is just an extra cost and something they have to do. With a mindset that sees that view change to seeing this as something that will not only help their employees but also their own business then there is no reason why the actual expense could more than pay for itself going forward.

    Amir: “It’s to take care of not just the absenteeism that might be there because they’re sick, but if they’re in the office and they’re not tuned in, they’re not all there because they’re worrying about something in their life so it helps to ensure they are presenter and that they’re actually working rather than just being there. Some policies will go on then to offer a level of security assistance for people that are traveling throughout the region. It sounds like I’m plugging certain insurers, but I’m not, but I’m saying that the insurers are looking at this in a much more holistic way and that’s just to make sure that your employees are taken care of not just because they’re taken care of, but even as a form of employee retention for a start. Being in the UAE, being in Dubai, it’s a very competitive market, good talent is difficult to retain and to attract so that is something which people are talking more and more about when they go into a job, go into an interview, people are asking, who am I insured with? Where is your medical insurance? And that’s a key concern as part of people’s benefit packages.” 

    With the current global pandemic due to Covid-19 I also wondered how this had affected the market, would companies be cutting back to save money due to the economic shift or would companies actually be looking to spend more on their medical insurance to ensure that they have the right cover in place due to the potential risks out there. There seems to be a split on this to some degree, of course some companies have had to save money so this is one fairly simple way to cut costs, but as above, is that something that may hit them hard in the long term…. That remains to be seen but there are certainly those out there who are using this as an opportunity to support their staff further by improving their cover and with all the uncertainty around, what a nice gesture that would be, one that will likely be repaid by the employees with their output.

    Lee: “Has there been a huge impact in the world of group medical insurance on the back of COVID-19 itself?”

    Amir: “So yeah, an impact of COVID on the industry, well there’s certainly been an impact on society in general, right? If we were to relate this to medical insurance, if we relate this to claims then yeah, we are seeing a different trend right now.

    With outpatient claims people are shying away from hospitals, medical facilities so we’ve seen claims dropped depending on the facilities that you talk to, depending on the actual professions. 65 to 80% reduction in outpatient claims. The government took the initiative there as well, anything that is non-necessary treatment has been taken a back seat right now. Claims have gone down but we’ve also seen an increase in inpatient claims for COVID it’s yet to be seen what the overall impact would be but we’re seeing claims for COVID, inpatient claims costing anything from between AED 40,000 to AED 300,000 per claim. Therefore I’d suggest we’ll feel the effect of that long term” 

    In many cases the role of a broker can be deeply undervalued with the view that they will go out, get prices, sign the policy and speak to the client again in a year. There is far more to it than that, or at least there should be, if you have the right broker working on your behalf.

    Lee: “Let’s talk Brokers. So, what’s the key benefit of having an insurance broker to assist when you’re looking at your company medical insurance?”

    Amir: “The role of a broker which I’m aware of as I’ve been doing this in Dubai for 16 years, so would hope I have a little bit more insight into what is actually out there and what is available. For example, it would be an insight into the way plans are priced, the risks that are out there in the market that people are overlooking, we deal with all sorts of segments of organizations in the market. Knowing what fits which organization, the process is a lot quicker when we’re actually doing it. When you’ve got up to a billion dirhams worth of buying power, a broker would have access to deals that you as an individual would not have. Better pricing, better benefits in some instances due to bespoke products that are available to specific brokers based on who they are. So, there’s a lot more that we can bring to the table. It’s not just on pricing in products, it’s on advice pre-sale, it’s on administering the scheme through the actual policy year by keeping a constant update on how that plan is actually performing and not facing a surprise at the end of the year. It’s managing the claims, I know policies cannot be altered through the policy year but we can see the trend on claims in some instances.

    We can put certain fail safes in place to educate the staff and on the way that their claims behavior is going. Introducing programs like the employee assistance program if we see an instance where there is a  need to manage people’s psychological welfare and it’s affecting people’s behaviors in that sense to affect overall claims through the policy year. Ultimately when it comes back up for renewal again, we will be negotiating the right renewal terms for that specific corporate, rather than a pooled increase that most insurers are applying to their clients. The value that we add to that process is high so it’s a long-term relationship that we build with our clients.”

    Lee: “So it’s a case of initially finding out the client’s requirements, building tailor made packages for them from there, but even once the policy is actually in place, it’s also then working with them throughout that policy, keeping an eye on claims, maybe providing some sort of training and education as well and then of course, when it comes to the renewal, doing the very best for them as well. So, it really is  a full hit in terms of the service that’s provided.”

    Amir: “Well summarized…”

    As an employer, Is this something you just have to do or is it something you want to do in order to provide a better package to employees which can ultimately improve thiers and your business performance?

    As an employee, would you rather work for a company who are providing this because they have to or because they want to? Would you choose one company over the next due to the medical insurance being provided? There is perhaps no right or wrong but used in the right way your “Group Medical Insurance” could become a very valuable “Employee Benefits”

    About Author

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    Lee Johnston

    About Author

    Lee Johnston is a Senior Manager with IM PRIORITY and whilst fairly new to the industry of insurance, he is relishing the challenge of learning what is truly an interesting and exciting industry. One of the best ways to learn has been through the “Ask The Insurance Expert” series having connected and questioned some true insurance experts.