No matter where you live or which country you’re from, you will have no doubt been affected by the war in Eastern Europe. Whether the raft of economic sanctions has cut into your finances, you have experienced the effects of the refugee crisis, or you have been affected psychologically, the impacts of Russia’s invasion are wide-ranging. Given the military action in and around Ukraine, we’ve put together some Q&As for our expat members living in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and neighbouring countries. We also cover questions related to healthcare for expats in Ukraine.
What’s happening in Ukraine? How are expats abroad affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
Russia has invaded Ukraine. Many countries had advised their citizens to leave Ukraine well before the invasion itself. Now war has broken out, all commercial flights from Ukraine are suspended. Further, it’s extremely difficult for foreign nationals to leave Ukraine overland or by sea, but remaining in the country is extremely dangerous.
The challenge will no doubt be considerably greater for those expats who have a connection to Russia, Belarus or Ukraine. In Russia, the economic downturn resulting from the invasion was swift and severe, with the ruble, Russia’s national currency, plunging 29% in value. Furthermore, sanctions by foreign countries mean that people in Russia now not only find themselves unable to buy items from the west, but unable to conduct business with many western companies. Some western businesses in Russia have decided to leave the market, while similarly many Russian companies in western nations have been sanctioned and forced to cease operations. Sanctions have also impacted Belarus, albeit to a lesser degree.
But undoubtedly the worst-affected nation is Ukraine. With many of the northern, eastern and southern parts of the country under occupation by Russian forces, and many cities coming under military fire, Ukraine’s economy has quickly plunged to become the weakest in Europe. This is nothing, however, compared to the risk to human life in this part of the world. This has caused a refugee crisis in parts of Europe.
Expats in these three countries will have experienced an immense upheaval to their way of living. Some may have experienced security concerns, while almost all will have noticed their cost of living has escalated quickly. Undoubtedly, many expats will be anxious about their future in these countries.
For members living in Ukraine or near a border with Ukraine, how will the conflict affect their health insurance policy? What about healthcare for expats in Ukraine?
Our international health insurance plans exclude medical treatment that directly or indirectly arises from war and terrorism and similar risks, unless the member is an innocent bystander. Our health insurance plans also exclude wilful exposure to needless danger. What constitutes ‘wilful exposure to needless danger’ will depend upon the circumstances of each case.
How will the conflict affect emergency medical evacuations?
We’ll continue to provide cover according to the terms of members’ policies, but it may not be possible to organise medical evacuations for members in Ukraine and the border regions of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries due to the military action. Evacuations by airplane are, for obvious reasons, impossible. Ground evacuations over Ukraine’s land borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania remain a possibility. Of course, that depends on how easy it is to travel overland in Ukraine itself.
The situation is different for members living in Russia and Belarus. While European airspace is closed to flights from Russia, medical evacuations by airplane can be arranged to destinations in Asia such as the UAE.
How will the conflict affect the medical treatment and our capability to settle insurance claims?
The military action in Ukraine means it might become more challenging for us to settle claims for members if the banking systems or hospital billing facilities of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and neighbouring countries are impacted. On a purely practical basis, members in Ukraine might find it difficult to access medical treatment at hospitals and clinics. Such facilities will be inundated with casualties from the military conflict and may even be commandeered by one of the opposing armies.
While sanctions do not target hospitals in Russia or Belarus, international banks and payment companies are becoming risk-averse with respect to Russian entities. It may be difficult for us to settle bills directly with hospitals in Russia and Belarus.
For expat members living in Ukraine or near a border with Ukraine, how will the conflict affect their life insurance or income protection policy?
Our global life and income protection plans exclude war and terrorism and other acts of violence if a member remains in a country that the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has advised its citizens to leave. As the FCDO has already advised its citizens to leave Ukraine (correct as of 22/02/2022), we will exclude any claims arising from these causes while a member remains in Ukraine. NB This exclusion applies irrespective of whether the member is permanently resident in Ukraine or simply on a temporary visit. This exclusion also applies irrespective of whether the member is an active participant in the causes or an innocent bystander.
For members living in Ukraine or near a border with Ukraine, how will the conflict affect their personal accident policy?
Our personal accident plans exclude death or disablement directly or indirectly arising out of or contributed to by war, acts of foreign enemy hostilities (whether or not war is declared), civil war, rebellion, revolution, insurrection or military or usurped power, mutiny, riot, strike, martial law or state of siege, or attempted overthrow of government, or any acts of terrorism unless a member is an innocent bystander. The personal accident plans also exclude death or disablement directly or indirectly arising out of or contributed to by these causes if a member travels to a country that the FCDO has advised its citizens to leave (even if the member is an innocent bystander). As the FCDO has already advised its citizens to leave Ukraine (correct as of 22/02/2022), we will exclude any claims arising from these causes while a member remains in Ukraine.
Can new expat members still purchase insurance plans when they’re resident in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus?
No. We’re temporarily suspending the purchase of new plans for people in these countries. Existing members who are in Ukraine, Russia or Belarus can renew their plans in the usual way.
Is there anything William Russell can do to help?
We suggest that members living in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and neighbouring countries download the Solace app for their smartphone. You’ll receive near real-time alerts for security incidents, civil unrest, and military conflict. Access is complimentary for members with a health plan.