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William Russell founding story

International Health Insurance Companies Aren’t Serving Customers Well. Here’s How We’re Fixing It

When our founder, Inez Cooper, was working in traditional international health insurance in the 90s, she realised there was nobody providing a specialist service to expats. She wanted to build specialist insurance plans with international services like evacuation, and those just weren’t available with her old insurance firm. She set up her own company so she could design the products herself.

James and Inez

In today’s time, as an international health insurance customer, you may often find yourself:

  • Wasting time on the phone to call centres and frustrating live chats, repeating your insurance claim to every person you speak to.
  • Not fully understanding what your coverage includes and excludes (and potentially overpaying for cover you don’t need).
  • Not feeling confident you’re getting the best medical care possible when a health emergency arises while travelling or living abroad. 

In this article, we’ll cover the three main problems with international health insurance and how we’re solving them.

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Why international health insurance companies aren’t serving customers well

Our founder Inez felt that people’s health shouldn’t be a product and that radical growth and profit should not come before a first-class service.

These are some of the problems she saw with international expatriate health insurance:

1/ Many international insurance companies outsource customer service to call centres 

Large corporate insurance firms often have a ratio of thousands of clients to one insurance agent. To handle the demand, firms often outsource their customer service to Third Party Administrative services (TPAs) – in other words, call centres.

This type of service usually means:

A frustrating and stressful experience:> When you’re sent to a TPA, you can be passed to multiple agents, which means wasted time repeating yourself and a long wait to get an answer on your claim.

You won’t get the best care for your condition: Many international health insurance firms will send you to whatever medical centre is most convenient (and affordable) for them. The agents in the call centre are often not familiar with your location, meaning they can’t recommend the best hospital for your treatment needs.

Your policy documents can be confusing: When you sign up for a traditional international health insurance plan, you’re sent complicated documents (with no phone call to explain), and it’s hard to be confident in what you can (and can’t) claim for.

2/ Many international insurance companies lack flexible options

Most international health insurance firms provide default products for the ‘standard’ person. But when it comes to expat life and international travellers, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

This means you could end up…

Paying for unnecessary cover: You don’t go to the US: so why does your policy include it? Most traditional international health insurance companies have firm packages that lack flexibility. But this might not suit your needs, meaning you can often pay for cover you don’t actually need.

Being pushed to buy the most expensive policy: The large insurance companies have to answer to shareholders, which means they’ll be highly focused on generating the highest returns possible. That means you could  end up paying for cover and products you don’t need. Trusting the agent on the other end of the phone can be hard.

Needing multiple products: Most insurance companies don’t offer life insurance or income protection insurance either, meaning you’ll need to take out a separate plan if you want these benefits. Multiple plans for cover can be frustrating to keep track of and manage.

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3/ International insurance providers have a more general overview

Most international insurance providers are large domestic providers with an international wing, which means they don’t specialise in international health insurance. Their size and the fact that the international wing is a secondary concern often leads to them removing the human element by outsourcing to call centres and focusing less on global customers.

There are a few problems with this process:

It can be hard to get a decision: In large insurance firms, there’s often a long decision tree when deciding whether to pay out your claim. This tedious and complicated process can often make it hard to get any transparency on your policy, and you can be left feeling uncertain about whether you’ll be covered.

Reluctant to pay out: A reluctance to pay can be frustrating for any kind of insurance claim, but can be terrifying when you’re dealing with your health or the health of a loved one abroad. This is frustrating at the best of times but can be terrifying when you’re abroad, where you might not even speak the language.

Lack of transparency: International health insurance policies can often be confusing. This means you can never really be clear on what you’re covered for. You don’t get a person running you through your policy documents and answering any questions you might have. At best, you’d have to wait on a live chat, or a long call centre queue.

4/ International insurance companies can lack specialism

Many of our competitors are just an ‘international department’ of a large domestic insurer, meaning that international health insurance isn’t necessarily their specialism or primary concern. This can sometimes mean a lack of expertise when it comes to the healthcare needs of people living and working abroad. In some cases, our competitors even outsource customer service support to call centres.

This can cause a few problems.

It can be hard to get a decision: In large insurance firms, there’s often a long decision-making tree when deciding whether to pay out your claim. This tedious and complicated process can often make it hard to get any transparency on your policy, and you can be left feeling uncertain about whether you have covered.

Reluctant to pay out: A reluctance to pay can be frustrating for any kind of insurance claim, but can be distressing when you’re dealing with your health in a foreign country where you might not speak the language.

Lack of transparency: International health insurance policies can be confusing, meaning means you can’t be sure on what you’re covered for. You won’t get a support agent taking the time to run you through your policy documents and answering any questions you might have. At best, you’d have to wait on a live chat, or in a long queue for a call centre.

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How we’re improving international health insurance at William Russell insurance

As an expat or regular international traveller, you want to make sure your health is in safe hands. You’re away from home, which can make you feel vulnerable and unsure of who you can trust.

At William Russell, we put our members at the heart of everything we do. We’ve created an insurance experience that’s personal, sustainable and transparent:

You’ll always speak to a person at William Russell

We don’t use call centres or outsource our customer service at William Russell. We’ve had long relationships with some of our members, some as long as 30 years. Our members stay with us because we value them as humans – not just as a policyholder.

This means:

  • Easy claims process: If you need to claim with William Russell, you’ll be on the phone with a real person you’ve already been introduced to before. This claims manager handles your file personally, meaning you’ll receive personalised service when you need to claim. Your manager will listen to you carefully and act as a point of stability as you navigate a scary situation.
  • Knowledgeable customer service agents: We pride ourselves on taking care of our team. They’re well compensated for their field, and some of our team have been with us for many years. They’ll be able to find the best possible solution for you and speak to you like a human.
  • Faster decisions: As a family-run business, William Russell is not a huge corporation. That means you’ll get an answer quickly if you have a complicated claim. There’s not a huge management chain to negotiate with.
  • Thoughtful touches: We often go over and above for our members. For instance, we offer cover for wigs for our clients battling cancer – something that very few global health insurance companies cover.

Prevention to cure, and everything in between

When you’re living abroad, the most important thing is to feel certainty. You want to know that everything will be taken care of if anything goes wrong.

At William Russell, we’ll take care of everything from prevention to cure. That means:

We’ll cover out-patient hospital costs, cancer treatment, surgery, mental health, pregnancy and a lot more. Depending on what you decide to include in your plan, you can choose to add or remove what you’ll be protected for, from the beginning to the end of your treatment.

Read more about what a William Russell policy would cover
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We also do medical evacuation. In certain countries, the standard of healthcare you’ll receive will be a lot lower than what you’re used to. If you require emergency medical life or limb-saving treatment which is not available locally, we’ll arrange medical evacuation so that you’re treated in the right location with the right standard of care. We’ll even allow you to bring someone else as a guest and cover their costs.

Optionally add life insurance and income protection to your insurance cover: William Russell offers both life insurance and income protection, meaning you can be fully covered in one easy payment. This means you don’t have to juggle multiple covers, and you can get all the reassurance you need in one transparent price. 

You’ll have more flexibility over your insurance package, allowing you to reduce premium fees or easily add additional products

With William Russell, you’ll:

Only pay for the cover you need: If you travel to various countries regularly, you can select certain zones you want to be covered in. You don’t need to include (and pay for) cover you don’t need. We use different zones so you can pick one that suits you best. You can also choose to add optional benefits (e.g. only taking out dental insurance if you need it). 

Some of our zones exclude only the US, whereas others exclude others like Singapore, Hong Kong and other areas.

Want to learn more about which areas our policy will cover?
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Receive transparent guidance on your policy: We want you to feel completely confident in your policy, and we’re here to help you find the right one for your circumstances. Transparency is key to William Russell, and it’s important to us that our customers fully understand their policy.

We are a specialist firm that’s been around since the 90s

As a family-run company, we’ve found success over the last three decades by putting our members first and building trusted relationships in the health field. We don’t have shareholders to answer to.

This has a few important benefits for our members: 

1/ Only the best hospitals

Don’t worry about being sent to questionable hospitals or medical clinics. William Russell has built relationships with the best hospitals in the world. This means your insurance agent can personally recommend the right hospital for the medical condition you experience. You’ll always have the freedom to choose the hospital you want to go to for treatment, but we’ll also give you recommendations on what might be best for you.

2/ We want to reduce your premiums

We know that international health insurance can be expensive, and we want to work with you to find the right package you need at your renewal date. We’ll help you look for ways to reduce your premiums by cutting any unnecessary cover.  That’s because we’re not interested in extracting premiums for cover customers don’t need – we’d rather provide the right level of cover and keep you as a customer.

3/ We’re underwritten by Allianz Group

Just because William Russell is a small firm doesn’t mean we don’t have firepower. Our underwriting is by the Allianz Group, one of the largest insurance companies in the world. But as an independent expat health insurance provider, we can offer the best possible customer experience, while still having the financial backing of a huge corporation. We believe it’s the best of both worlds.

Get international health coverage with William Russell

William Russell has come a long way since our founder Inez started the company in an attic bedroom in the 90s. Many things have changed since then, but our commitment to giving our clients the best experience possible has not. 

If you’re planning an international move or need a new international health insurance policy, William Russell will be there for you when you need it most. Request a quote to get started now, or contact our award-winning customer service team – we’re happy to help!

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