AXA PPP International: Healthy profits - Kevin Melton, United Kingdom

Healthcare provisions are one of the most critical components of any corporate renumeration package. Boosting morale and productivity, health insurance can have a profound impact on the bottom line, not to mention its importance in attracting and retaining talent.

Providing cover, however, is no simple task when scheme members are dispersed across the globe. As corporations become more multinational in scope, they need to formulate a comprehensive healthcare strategy that will apply across all their constituent regions, navigating various different regulatory environments along the way.

"Worldwide workforces are becoming more mobile due to increasing overseas assignments, whether based on an 'expatriate' or 'local' contract," says Kevin Melton, sales and marketing director at AXA PPP International. "As a result of this, multinational organisations are recognising the need for a global medical insurance strategy to succeed in the competitive global marketplace, whatever the profession or industry.

"It is clear that multinational insurers such as Axa PPP International are therefore best placed to react to these requirements and satisfy the health needs of this mobile workforce due to their global reach."

Worldwide footprint

As a branch of the world's largest insurance company, AXA PPP International is well positioned to assess this trend. The healthcare division of the AXA UK Group, PPP Healthcare is the number two domestic private insurance company in the UK, and PPP International is its international wing.

The company specialises in providing medical insurance for people living outside their country of origin - not just Brits, but expatriates of any nationality. Its infrastructure provides it with a major opportunity in the marketplace.

"AXA is a global brand with a presence in many countries," says Melton. "It gives security and peace of mind to our members that they know we're part of a very large, stable organisation. We work closely with other AXA health insurance companies, which gives us global reach."

The company's ability to harness and utilise its relationships within AXA is a major factor in its success. Through working with other AXA entities, PPP International maintains a strong rapport with hospitals around the world. This in turn leads to lower claims costs and keeps its premiums down.

As with any healthcare insurance provider, its major priority is dealing with members' medical claims. Should they become ill, they will be able to obtain the necessary treatments without paying additional hospital fees, focusing solely on getting better as opposed to the costs of treatment.

AXA, however, does not see its sole purpose as providing insurance. Whereas a standard healthcare insurer confines itself to paying claims, PPP International boasts a far wider remit.

"Often when you go abroad, you take your family as well, and it's very important for them that the insurer can provide advice and help," says Melton. "There are a lot more things to think about if you're not in your own country, such as which hospital you should go to, and what vaccinations you need. I think it's important that the insurer is in a position to provide answers to all these questions."

Your healthcare partner

AXA PPP International therefore offers a wealth of additional services. Positioning itself less as an insurer pure and simple, and more as a healthcare partner, it aims to provide a one-stop service for scheme members' health-related needs.

Naturally, the specifics will vary in each instance. When dealing with a multinational corporation, AXA PPP International works hard to formulate a healthcare strategy designed around its individual requirements.

"Different multinationals have different cultures, so part of our role is to establish the company culture and what it's looking to do," says Melton. "Some companies are prepared to pay a lot of money to provide healthcare benefits for all their expatriates at a high level. Others just want a simple plan that'll make sure expensive treatments are covered in the event of someone falling ill."

Once a scheme is in place, the benefits to members are plentiful. Even before someone is posted abroad, PPP International can play a role in the form of funding health screenings for that employee and their family.
"If you're asthmatic, and you're being posted in an area of high pollution, it may not be appropriate for you to go there," says Melton. "It's right for an insurer to give as much information as possible prior to the assignment."

This approach continues once the assignment is underway. As well as providing a multilingual 24/7 helpline service, AXA PPP International boasts a website featuring a wealth of information. This does not pertain exclusively to healthcare, but also to issues such as security and natural disasters, all of which have some bearing on staying well abroad.

Because AXA works on the basis that today's healthcare claimants are au fait with the internet, members can view their plan details and submit claims online - ideal in countries where the postal service is unreliable. The aim throughout is to help expats adapt with ease.

One service expressly designed to put minds at rest is the company's partnership with Medix. Every so often, an expat may be unsure about the veracity of their doctor's claims. Medix puts that person in touch with another specialist, thus granting them access to invaluable and ongoing medical expertise.

"We want to make sure that the person's treatment is the advised treatment, and the most appropriate course of action," explains Melton.

Just like Medix, all PPP International's products include evacuation and repatriation benefits as default. "In a policy, it's important you have a good evacuation strategy if you're in a remote area," says Melton. "Certain countries have less advanced medical facilities that wouldn't meet up to European or US standards. So this feature is massively important in an emergency situation, it helps us get our members to the nearest centre of medical excellence."

Flexible solutions

AXA PPP International doesn't just cater to medical emergencies. It also benefits from a well-being division, ICAS, which provides a counselling helpline for any expats who find themselves stressed or depressed abroad.

With companies increasingly looking to integrate employee welfare into their healthcare strategies - thus mitigating against the need to pay medical bills in the first place - this service is well tailored towards market demand.

Recently, Melton has seen a shift in claimants' working arrangements. Historically, it was a simple case of being posted overseas on a long-term contract, these days many of them continue to live at home while regularly travelling abroad.

Such workers are no less suited than their expatriate colleagues to a PPP International plan.

"I think we are seeing an emerging market of frequent travellers who are looking for something more than what travel insurance could provide," says Melton. "There's an increasing demand for a product like ours, which covers all their healthcare requirements."

AXA PPP International, observing such trends with interest, is constantly adapting and developing its plans in line with corporations' requirements. It launches new services, and enhances its old ones, whenever the need should arise.

"Multinational companies are trying to have some commonality in how they deal with healthcare," says Melton. "We work in partnership with them to provide that."

Kevin Melton, sales and marketing director at AXA PPP International.