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Phil Austin heads Cigna's UK HealthCare Benefits business

Following the recent resignation of James Parker, Cigna has announced the appointment of Phil Austin as Managing Director of its HealthCare Benefits business in the UK

Phil joined Cigna in 2002 as Partnership Director for the UK business. Since then, he has held a number of international roles within the company. Most recently, he spearheaded the growth of Cigna’s Global Individual Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) business which provides solutions for high net worth and globally mobile individuals.

Phil commented, "I’m delighted to be re-joining Cigna’s UK HealthCare Benefits business at a time when the demand for health benefits is growing. There’s no doubt that private healthcare has a bigger role to play in the overall UK healthcare system. And it’s our job as an insurer to provide benefit plans that make it easy for employees to access care whilst producing a measurable return for employers."

As Phil transitions into his new role based near Glasgow, his colleague Arjan Toor is taking over the reins at Cigna’s Global International Private Medical Insurance business. Arjan is moving to the UK from Hong Kong, where he was previously Chief Marketing Officer of Cigna’s International Division.       


Expats evacuated from Yemen with the assistance of International SOS and Control Risks

International SOS and Control Risks are providing evacuation assistance to member organisations with expatriate employees in Yemen.
The evacuation assistance follows the recommendation from International SOS and Control Risks for member clients to evacuate any remaining staff from the country. 
The triggers for advising evacuation were: The commencement of international military action, the expansion of the conflict to most urban centres, the further breakdown of law and order in some cities, and the consequent severe reduction of availability of healthcare services.
“Our role is to enable organisations to do business in challenging or remote locations whilst meeting their duty of care to their employees,” said Julian Moro, Regional Security Director, International SOS and Control Risks. “Operating in a country like Yemen requires careful management of medical and security risks to employees.”  
Air travel out of Yemen is very limited with infrequent flights occurring on short notice and only with government approval. Most overland routes are subject to significant security threats. International SOS and Control Risks advised members to stand fast in secure locations and be prepared to move with 30 minutes notice whilst preparations were made for the evacuations. As Yemen is classed as Extreme within the International SOS and Control Risks travel safety rating, member clients were prepared to respond, or had already taken their staff out of Yemen.
International SOS and Control Risks began issuing daily analysis on the situation in Yemen to their clients following last week’s initiation of the Saudi Arabia-led Operation Decisive Storm. Client communications and response actions are being led by the International SOS Regional Security Centre in Dubai.
Organisations that had staff in Yemen included energy, construction and telecommunications companies.
International SOS and Control Risks advise clients to defer all further travel to Yemen until further notice. They have advised against non-essential travel to Yemen since 2012.
Members with concerns about developments in Yemen can contact one of the 27 International SOS assistance centres. Detailed and regularly updated travel security information is available to members through the Members Zone at  and via the International SOS assistance app. 


Tourism, a national priority for Honduras

Honduras has joined the more than 70 countries committed to support the Travel and Tourism sector as a means to promote inclusive growth and development. During an official visit of UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, President Juan Orlando Hernández was presented with the Open Letter on Travel and Tourism. The joint initiative by UNWTO and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) calls on Heads of State and Government to publicly express their political commitment to support tourism as a development driver.

Political support at the highest level is a critical factor in advancing tourism’s role in national economic and development policies. Including Honduras, a total of 73 countries from around the world have now so far received the Open Letter on Travel and Tourism.

During an official four-day visit to the country, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai presented President Juan Orlando Hernández with the Open Letter on Travel and Tourism. On the occasion, the President confirmed tourism’s importance “as a national priority for Honduras” and thanked UNWTO for supporting the country in its efforts to spur its international economic integration through tourism.

"Having tourism as a priority in your agenda is a very important and wise decision", said Mr. Rifai. “Honduras has a rich and diverse tourism offer that combines many market niches; I witnessed several projects clearly committed to a sustainable and responsible tourism development”, he added.

David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC says  “Travel & Tourism made up 15.9% of Honduras’ economy last year and that contribution is expected to rise by nearly 6% a year over the next decade.The Government’s commitment to the sector will bring rewards to the country in terms of increased visitors, spend and employment opportunities”.

Mr. Rifai also stressed that “Honduras must see itself as a connector between north and south, between the different cultures of Central America and as part of the greater circle of the Americas all together”.

The official visit by the UNWTO Secretary-General to Honduras, hosted by the Director of the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT), Emilio Silvestri, also included visits to different tourism development projects and initiatives such as the Mayan archeological sites in Copán, the colonial town of Gracias and the Caribbean town of Roatán, host of the forthcoming first UNWTO Global Observatory on Sustainable Tourism in the Americas.

On the occasion of the visit, 12 Honduran tourism companies and associations signed the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, pledging to implement and promote its ethical principles in their policies and operations, further demonstrating Honduras’ recognition of tourism’s, social, cultural and economic importance.

In 2014, Honduras received 885,000 international tourists, an increase of 2.6% in comparison to 2013.


Timing of Lunar New Year and US Port Congestion Boosts February Air Freight

Data for global air freight markets showing a sharp increase in year-on-year air freight volumes. Growth measured by freight tonne kilometers (FTK) was up 11.7% in February, compared to February 2014. Capacity grew 7.4%.

Much of the impressive February result is due to the timing of the Lunar New Year activities. Air freight is given a strong boost in the weeks leading up to the holiday, which last year fell in January. In addition, air freight volumes were enhanced by the consequences of congestion at US West Coast ports.

These factors showed up most in the Asia-Pacific results, with carriers in that region recording a rise in volumes of 20.8% year-on-year. Japanese carriers, in particular, benefited from the modal shift owing to congested sea ports in the US.

“A combination of factors made February the strongest month in a very long time for air freight. Nobody expects growth to continue at this pace. As we look forward, however, there is room for optimism. Business confidence improved slightly and trade continues to grow. The year is shaping up in line with a growth expectation of 4-5%,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Feb 2015 vs. Feb 2014FTK GrowthAFTK GrowthFLF
International 12.7% 8.9% 50.5
Domestic 5.5% 1.4% 30.2
Total Market 11.7% 7.4% 46.5


YTD 2015 vs. YTD 2014FTK GrowthAFTK GrowthFLF
International 8.2% 7.1% 48.1
Domestic 2.9% 0.6% 30.2
Total Market 7.5% 5.7% 44.6

Regional analysis in detail

Asia-Pacific carriers saw FTKs grow 20.8% responding to strong demand ahead of the Lunar New Year. There is also evidence that significant automotive exports from Japan to the US shifted from sea to air. In general Japanese trade is enjoying a positive growth spurt, but emerging Asia and Chinese trade activity appears to be easing slightly. Capacity grew 12.7%.   

European airlines reported a 1.1% rise in FTKs. The European economy remains in the doldrums, and the effects of the Russian sanctions and the region’s recession continue to dampen demand. There is some sign of improvement in manufacturing output, which could lead to stronger air cargo growth in the months to come. Capacity grew 2.4%.    

North American carriers grew 8.7% year-on-year. The region’s airlines also benefitted from the congestion at US West Coast ports. The fundamentals of the US economy show employment, consumer and business confidence all improving, which should underpin volume growth even after the ports issue is resolved. Capacity grew 0.7%.     

Middle Eastern carriers expanded FTKs by 17.6%. The region’s carriers continue to benefit from their strong geographic base, and have further gained by expanding their networks and encouraging freight to transit through their hubs. Capacity grew 19.2%.    

Latin American airlines’ air freight volumes sharply declined by 9.6% in February. Although regional trade activity has increased in recent months, this has not offset the struggles of the Brazilian and Argentinian economies. Capacity grew 1.9%. 

African airlines reported 8.3% growth in FTKs in February. In Africa, the regional trade growth has counterbalanced the weakness in the Nigerian and South African economies. Capacity grew 3.8%.     

The bottom line

“The prospect of strengthening air freight growth in 2015 gives an added incentive to the air cargo industry to invest in new procedures and facilities. At the World Cargo Symposium in Shanghai, held in March, the discussions centered on improving the customer experience. Shippers are demanding better and more specialized services. The industry is responding with initiatives including accelerating the implementation of paperless processes, benchmarking cool-chain facilities, and tackling the challenge of illegal lithium battery shipments,” said Tyler.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Reports 2014 Results

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and its family of companies (Blue Cross) today announced audited financial results for 2014. Blue Cross closed out the year with net income of $61.5 million, reflecting positive investment portfolio performance that offset slight operational losses. The organization reported a net operating loss of $8.2 million on full-year revenues of $10.1 billion, for a negative operating margin of one-tenth of one percent (0.1%).

Blue Cross reported more than $9.1 billion paid in medical claims for the year, representing 90 cents of every premium dollar collected going directly to cover health care costs. Additionally, Blue Cross paid more than $205 million in taxes, assessments and surcharges for the year. Overall year-end 2014 enrollment of 2.6 million members represents a slight decrease from year-end 2013.

“Our operating performance for 2014 was favorable to projections, amounting to a near break-even year for the organization,” said Michael Guyette, president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “We knew 2014 would be a challenging year, as the market continued to go through significant transition related to health reform. We continue to engage with multiple stakeholders in order to explore ways of bringing additional cost and coverage stability for both the short- and long-term.”

During 2014, Blue Cross celebrated several successes in communities across the state. Among them:

  •     Collaborated with Allina, Entira, Minnesota Community Health Network (MCHN), Northern Health Alliance and Sanford Health in support of innovations that promote advancements in health care affordability and quality.
  •     Opened the company’s first health insurance retail store, where Minnesotans can receive health plan information, service and claims support.
  •     Raised more than $1 million in employee donations through the annual Community Giving Campaign to benefit more than 700 nonprofits statewide.
  •      Supported efforts of Minnesota communities to enhance access to health coverage and improve health, including:

o    Southern Prairie Community Care, an Accountable Community for Health, focused on improving the health of residents of 12 southwestern Minnesota counties.
o    Access to coverage grants, helping low-income Minnesotans enroll in insurance.
o    Act on Alzheimer’s, helping foster dementia-friendly communities.
o    Increasing access to various dental care programs in Mankato, Bemidji, Duluth and Rochester.

Audited results include the consolidated financial statements for businesses operating under Aware Integrated Inc. (AII), a non-profit corporation and parent organization. AII serves as the holding company for all affiliates and subsidiaries, including the following regulated businesses associated with Blue Cross:

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota — A nonprofit health insurance company and independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

Blue Plus — A nonprofit health maintenance organization (HMO) that offers health plans and contracted provider networks throughout Minnesota to individuals and local, state and national groups.

SelectAccount — A third-party administrator of medical spending accounts included in consumer-directed health plans throughout the country.

Blue Cross provides all information, reports and audited details as required by the State of Minnesota for both commercial and public program products. Detailed financial statements for the organization’s regulated businesses are filed with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. A consolidated earnings statement for 2014 results is available at

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, with headquarters in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan, was chartered in 1933 as Minnesota’s first health plan and continues to carry out its charter mission today as a health company: to promote a wider, more economical and timely availability of health services for the people of Minnesota. Blue Cross is a not-for-profit, taxable organization. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, headquartered in Chicago. Go to to learn more about Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.


Pierre Brigadeau Joins Europ Assistance Group As Global Global Chief Sales & Marketing Officer

Antoine Parisi, CEO of the Europ Assistance Group, is providing the Europ Assistance Group with a new organisation around its four Business Lines to support its new strategic ambitions. Four Business Lines are being created to accelerate the development of Europ Assistance in its four areas of activity: Travel, Automotive, Health, Home & Family.

These four Business Lines now have overall responsibility for the management and performance of each of the Group's four activities, worldwide. This new organisation around the Group's four Business Lines aims to bring worldwide customers of Europ Assistance value-added solutions and offers in terms of marketing and technological innovation as well as customer relations across all distribution channels. These four business lines are entrusted to Pierre Brigadeau who joined Europ Assistance as Global Global Chief Sales & Marketing Officer with effect from 10 March 2015.

In his new role, Pierre Brigadeau becomes a member of the Group Executive Committee and reports directly to Antoine Parisi. As part of this new organisation, Paola Bianchi, Stéphane Charbonneau, Guillaume Deybach and Emmanuel Légeron are appointed Executive Vice-President for the Automotive, Home & Family, Travel and Health Global Business Line respectively. In performing their duties, they become members of the Group Executive Committee and report directly to Pierre Brigadeau.



Cigna TTK Health Insurance Launches Lifestyle Protection Product - Accident Care

Cigna TTK Health Insurance a joint venture between U.S. based global health service leader, Cigna Corporation (NYSE:CI), and Indian conglomerate TTK Group, today announced the launch of  its second, Lifestyle Protection product- Accident Care.

Accident Care is available to retail customers in three options- Basic, Enhanced and Comprehensive with a sum insured ranging from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 10 crore.

Speaking on the launch, Sandeep Patel, CEO and Managing Director, Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company Limited said “It is imperative to be prepared for adversity arising due to uncertainties in today’s evolving world. It is our aim to work together with our customers, to understand their unique needs and deliver on those needs.  Lifestyle protection products from Cigna TTK are designed to assure financial support through life’s ups and downs. It’s our endeavor to keep the products simple, convenient and comprehensive. Accident Care is uniquely designed to offer benefits and value for money, to our customers.”

Earlier, Cigna TTK also launched Critical Care, as a part of Lifestyle Protection product suite. This policy is available in two variants – Basic Plan and Enhanced Plan. 15 basic critical illnesses will be covered under basic plan and 30 under the enhanced plan. Cigna TTK – Critical Care offers a sum insurance ranging from 1 Lac to 25 crores. The minimum age to take this policy is 18 and the maximum age is 65 with a lifetime renewal facility. It is topped with a unique facility that allows our customers access to Cigna’s Global Network across 80 Countries and over 10,00,000 network hospitals at network rates to avail treatment for the diagnosed Critical Illness.

Talking about Critical Care, Mr. Patel said, “With growing sedentary lifestyles, changing environmental factors and high stress levels in the country, lifestyle diseases are becoming more and more prevalent.  Critical Care is designed to cater to the growing concerns of lifestyle diseases and the high medical costs associated with them. The product is also designed to complement indemnity medical products.”

“We intend to offer a comprehensive health insurance portfolio to all our customers. Both Accident Care and Critical Care are fixed benefit products which strengthens Cigna TTK’s suite of health insurance products offered in the market.” he added.

All Cigna TTK products offer immediate access to Cigna TTK’s online wellness program- ProActiv Living, to all policy holders, offering customers Health Risk Assessment, Targeted Risk Assessment and Lifestyle Management Programs to improve their lifestyle.

In addition, the policy holder is also entitled for tax benefit under section 80D as per Income Tax act.


The Most Comprehensive Cancer Cover In The Critical Illness Market

Friends Life has announced its latest round of critical illness enhancements which now means it offers the most comprehensive cancer cover on the market.

Among the enhancements Friends Life has:

  • simplified the main cancer definition
  • created a new ‘less advanced cancer’ additional payment definition covering 20 specific types of cancer
  • increased and standardised payment for all additional payments to 25% of benefit or £25,000 (whichever is lower)
  • created an option to add Global Treatment, in association with Best Doctors, for an additional £4 a month

Mark Anders, Director of Sales for Individual Protection at Friends Life, said, “The new enhancements we have made to our critical illness proposition mean our customers can be even more confident that their policy will support them financially across a very broad range of significant illnesses. After all, that is what we are here for - supporting customers when they or their children have health problems. I think we now have the strongest critical illness proposition on the market. When adding these cancer related enhancements to our unique benefits such as the Global Treatment option, child specific illnesses and fracture cover we are offering something very few other providers can compete with.”

Friends Life has also added a severe hearing loss additional payment to complement the main deafness definition.

Mark Anders added, “A severe loss of hearing can have a huge impact on someone’s life and so our new additional payment definition is designed to support customers whose hearing loss is severe, but not significant enough to claim on the main benefit. These enhancements make critical illness cover an even more attractive proposition to customers. Cancer is the most claimed for condition on critical illness policies so it’s really important that we cover people for as many different forms of it as possible. We’ve made the definitions easier to understand and now offer additional payments for 20 conditions where cancers are less advanced. It means we’ll be able to help our customers when they need it most.”


New Study Reveals Benefits Of Prevention Programmes To The Bottom Line

  • Average investment in an international assignment is US$311,000 per annum
  • Cost of a failed assignment ranges between US$570,000 to $950,000
  • Pre-travel health check programmes reduce the occurrence of failed assignments
  • Investing in pre-travel health checks results in up to 2.5X cost savings
  • Employee malaria prevention programmes could reduce the number of fatal cases by 70%

A new study reveals the benefits of implementing pre-travel health checks and malaria prevention measures for business travellers and international assignees.
Return on Prevention, published by Prevent and commissioned by the International SOS Foundation, analyses the average monetary investment required to relocate an employee for an international assignment and the costs that incur when an assignment fails due to an employee’s inability to fulfil the assignment due to poor health. 
The study shows how the benefits of implementing a travel health prevention strategy significantly outweigh the operating costs of the programme. 
A medical check for travellers and international assignees aimed at identifying pre-existing medical issues before assigning employees to a foreign country. This ensures employees are fit for the proposed assignment and its working conditions. It identifies general and work-related health problems before the assignment begins:

  • The cost-benefit analysis showed that $1 invested returns a benefit ranging from $1.6 (minimum scenario) to $2.53 (maximum scenario).

A malaria prevention programme aimed at employees travelling and working in malaria-risk regions. Employees are given information before departure and receive prophylaxis medication and other technical protection means such as mosquito-nets, insecticide sprays and repellents as well as a malaria curative kit: 

  • The malaria prevention programme reduced the occurrence of fatal cases by 70%. The benefits also outweigh the costs in the case of this programme: For each $1 invested, the return was estimated at $1.32.

Laurent Fourier, Director of the International SOS Foundation, spoke to the results of the study, "Over the years we have released many reports on why an organisation has a duty of care – a moral, and at times legal, responsibility – to protect their people working overseas or on assignment. This study proves there are tangible commercial incentives to investing in preventive programmes, in addition to fulfilling an organisations duty of care. Implementing quality, appropriate pre-travel health and malaria programmes can save lives and cut costs. Businesses should not ignore these findings.”

 Marc De Greef, Managing Director of Prevent said, “This latest financial analysis proves there is a return on investment resulting from good preventive health and safety practices when managing mobile employees.  

Companies who invest in the prevention of health risks commonly experience many benefits. These prevention programmes should be essential management practices for a sound business.”

Prevent’s Return on Prevention study can be downloaded here.



Time For A Career Move Abroad? Don't Let The Doctor Put A Dampener On It

The start of a new tax year is a popular time for anyone planning a lifestyle change to move abroad, offering as it does sensible tax planning opportunities. History tells us, though, that whilst many will have a job lined up and hopefully somewhere to live, scant attention will be paid to the financial implications of their move overseas.

That's an oversight that can come back to haunt some expatriates, especially those who have moved abroad with their family. Moving to a warmer climate, such as the Middle or Far East can bring thoughts of endless warm weather and sunshine, with memories of winter trips to the local GP confined to history. But families do still get ill, wherever they live and your local doctor will always be an important part of your life. The difference is that once abroad, you will no longer have access to a free NHS and in some countries even everyday treatments can mount up in cost terms.

Take the recent case of a client of MediCare International. Noticing their child's hearing seemed to be deteriorating, the family was referred to a local a paediatrician who carried out an examination and a range of hearing tests at a cost of $400. The tests resulted in a recommendation for an adenotonsillectomy, a routine but in this case important operation to remove both the adenoids and tonsils and subsequently to insert grommets. The surgeon's fees totalled $850, whilst those of the anaesthetist amounted to $350. In addition, MediCare International paid for an overnight stay in the hospital, along with all nursing care costs, which added a further$9,280 to the bill, bring the total to just under $11,200. Happily, the child has made a full recovery after an uneventful operation.

Buying good quality international health insurance and peace of mind to protect against instances like this can be expensive, but it is far better to be covered rather than to face the prospects of a bill running into thousands. International private medical insurers such as MediCare International have been looking after expatriates of all nationalities for 30 years, so they understand the importance not only of excellent cover but also of keeping costs down.

In the case of MediCare International, its focus on cost control is based on a comprehensive excess strategy, allowing clients to buy their preferred package of international medical cover, but with up to 50% off the cost of premiums. The discount is applied per year of cover, giving policyholders a high level of flexibility. In practice, this means expatriates are still securing cover against potentially high cost claims such as hospital treatment, long term illness, evacuations, major operations, complications etc., but from a day to day perspective in areas such as GP or dental costs, the policy holder is effectively self-insuring to save on costs. To qualify for the premium discount, applicants need to choose the size of their agreed excess, which ranges from £500 to £10,000.

MediCare International believes this gives clients the best of both worlds. Managing director Debbie Purser said, "We are constantly looking at ways to keep costs down for clients, whilst at the same time retaining top quality options on cover, should the need arise. Our voluntary excess structure can give policyholders up to 50% discount on their premiums, which in real terms can bring the cost of a typical policy for a young family consisting of the parents aged 34 and a child aged 14 months down to £1690 annually. Even at this level, the family will still be covered for major events such as hospital costs, inpatient stays, serious illness costs and medical evacuation. For a young family in their thirties with a good health record, many are happy to assume that in fact they just need to protect against the really high bills and to look after their children, so accepting an excess is simple way to cut costs. At the other end of the scale, many older clients and who will normally have higher premiums also find this option attractive, as they can use savings to cover any excess and thereby also reduce premiums."

Cases like these highlight that, with the benefit of hindsight, taking out an international private health insurance plan can work out to be one of the smartest investments anyone leaving the UK can make.

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