In the third in a four leg tour of the world's emerging BRIC economies, Emily Perryman looks at some of the opportunities - and potential pitfalls - for brokers who have clients in India
The Indian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. It continues to outperform many Western countries and is home to numerous global brands and outsourced businesses. The number of expats living in India has been rising steadily and the region is becoming increasingly important for the international private medical insurance (iPMI) industry.
“There is an increasing flow of expats to India, largely driven by the entry of global brands, outsourced business, resources coming from the Eastern bloc and Russia in search of work, and relocation of key personnel for general management,” says Dr Dennis Sebastian, regional director-health at RGA Reinsurance Company Middle East.
The standard and delivery of healthcare in India is very different to most expats’ home countries. Expats are able to access state-funded healthcare facilities, but given the fact that India has one of the lowest spends on public healthcare in the world and is still a developing nation, the standard of care can be very poor.
“Some hospitals suffer from a shortage of equipment and with a remit to serve the masses, standards in these local facilities are unlikely to meet with Western expectations,” says James Cooper, sales director at iPMI provider William Russell.
Expats in rural areas or remote tourist destinations need to plan for emergency evacuation and personal transportation. It is also recommended that they have emergency cash available in case they do need to have treatment at a rural medical centre as these facilities may not accept credit or debit cards.
“That said, these local government-run hospitals only account for around 25% of the medical facilities within India, as the majority of healthcare is administered via private hospitals or charities,” says Cooper.
Many of the private hospitals are located within the large cities, where the vast majority of expats will be based. Most medical facilities in places such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore will offer a Western standard of care with English-speaking practitioners and World Health Organisation recognition.
However, expats still need to err on the side of caution. Andrew Apps, director at iPMI provider ALC Health, says it is important not to confuse the word private with what people consider to be private in the West. There is little legislative control in setting up private clinics, which has resulted in significant discrepancies where specialists and equipment are not always available.
“The quality of private healthcare in India varies enormously from place to place and in many cases is simply a reference to a charge being made for services given rather than a reflection of the quality of those services,” says Apps. “As a result, the expatriate needs to be very careful about where they seek medical care, with whom and for what. As one commentator recently reported, there may be as many as ‘a million unregistered, untrained medical providers’ touting for business in India, which makes for a worrying picture.”