Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Anniversary (of Your International Medical Plan)

Renewal Rates & Why Azimuth May Make You Feel Like Sending Flowers

Frank Sinatra
(not his best day)
Sometimes what initially seems like an attractive deal, turns out to be a really disastrous choice.  You probably know what I mean.  Things like the Yugo, the Segway and the Lyle Lovett/Julia Roberts marriage all come to mind. Do you think they would have had kids or foals? Sometimes choosing among international medical insurance can be a mystery worthy of a Scooby-Doo episode when you don't know the reasons behind why new business premium rates vary between different plan choices.  As a general rule, annually renewable international major medical insurance plans for individuals and families, such as the standout Meridian Series from Azimuth Risk Solutions, are pretty enticing compared to any US domestic health insurance product. Makes you happy you're an expat, huh? It's incredibly important though, to understand what things will be like for someone insured on a plan in the longer term.  Particularly if you could envision being insured on the plan for several years.  One thing prospective applicants should know is how renewal premiums are calculated by the insurance provider they are considering.  

Many, if not all, of Azimuth's competitors calculate their renewal premiums on a 'class' basis.  This means that every insured member receives the same percentage increase (you really didn't think your premium was going to go down did you?) at the time of their policy renewal.  So, whether you've had no claims, $100 in claims or $100,000 in claims, you get the same percentage increase at your time of renewal.  It's easy, but at the same time it doesn't make a lot of sense does it?  At Azimuth, we take a different approach. Nobody outside of an asylum likes renewal rate increases, so our challenge was to find a way to be as fair and sensible as possible.  Because it had to be sensible they sent me to get sandwiches when they created it.  Because I'm pretty easily bought off, I took no offense.  However malleable my reaction to insult may be, please know I'm not cheap.  After all, I got a Big Mac. None of this cut-rate value menu stuff for me.  Ha! Like they're so smart.  I had to go to some other food peddler for weird stuff like Salad Ni├žoise and Filet Mignon sandwiches.  I've never even fished for a Mignon.
I'm funny to you?
Funny how? Like a clown?
Those big brain box folks came up with a renewal process that even makes sense to me.  
We section our renewal rates into 4 different categories: 1. insureds with no claims submitted; 2. people with modest claims; 3. members with larger claims; 4. large ongoing claims.   We then apply some other factors, such as whether the claims have been acute, such as appendicitis or if the condition is chronic in nature, as in the case of hypertension.  We mix in some special sauce...wait, no we don't. That must have dripped off of my Big Mac.  Whatever the case, the result is lower increases for those who utilize less of their insurance and higher for those that do.  

It's good to know also that Azimuth does not engage in another practice found in the market.  Some companies will simply increase rates only upon those who've had large payable claims.  Clients get sick or hurt, the claims are paid, but at renewal, the client may be temporarily blinded upon seeing the massive premium increase that has been applied.  Okay, so the blindness part may be a rumor, but the renewal price tag can be brutally high.  Instead, Azimuth does a high wire act worthy of Nik Wallenda.  We are obsessive about keeping premiums affordable for healthy clients while paying eligible expenses for those members who've been unfortunate to incur significant medical bills and have used insurance for its designed purpose.  We do our best to avoid crushing rate increases for clients in every category.  Many of the clients who purchase the Meridian Series are buying with the idea that he or she will remain insured with us for many years.  So if they don't have any claims submitted, it's highly likely their renewal premium increase will be small. Pretty much Muggsy Bogues small. But there will be an increase.  This is because our insured members are typically on the plan for a number of years, thus it's pretty likely they will generate health claims at some point.  Consider also that cost of medical care continues to creep upward and everyone gets another year older.  Statistically every year older and every move into a higher age band increases the risk that medical claims will magically appear.  Particularly if you happen to be the Roy part of Siegfried & Roy. The good news is that we don't require our members to play with fully grown tigers.  

PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 


PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more

Friday, September 27, 2013

Killing Time Without Getting Killed (Financially)

               Azimuth's Beacon Series - Exclusively Offering Trip Delay Benefits

Delayed getting to Oz to see his flying monkey cousins
Anyone who has more than one page of their passport stamped has probably felt that iceberg in the stomach feeling that seems to be attached with a stainless steel tether to the airport's departure screen as it mocks him, displaying his flight status as delayed. Thus, letting him know that the flight bound for home that he rolled out of the rack for at 4:30 am won't be leaving any time soon.  The one for which he threw in his travel clothes, a toothbrush (but no toothpaste), jammies & teddy bear in a bag, then waited for the shuttle that was running late, had airport insecurity grope his nether regions and negotiated his way to an open chair next to the hygienically-challenged Rastafarian and the elderly lady with 7 decades of stories to share. So, now what to do?  Hang out with your new friend and learn about how things were done when she had to share a telephone party line with the whole neighborhood in the 1950s?  Woo, listening in on that Ethel Simpson's conversation, she was such a character....um, no.  Instead, of being THAT guy, you can enjoy the knowledge that you were prepared.  Prepared not only for accidents and unforeseeable illness that might arise while traveling internationally, but also for extended flight delays.  Travel medical insurance plans usually provide no benefits for trip delays or flight cancellation, so Azimuth stands as alone as Tom Hanks in that movie where he buddies up to a volleyball.  The Beacon Series provides coverage for up to $100 a day for return trip flight delays/cancellations lasting 12 hours or more.  Granted, it may not mean a night at the Ritz or dinner while suspended by a crane, but it will most certainly defray a significant unanticipated expense and maybe soothe an annoyance or two.  

PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 


PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more

Monday, September 9, 2013

Treat Me Better Than I Deserve

Azimuth's Client Service - An Astoundingly Good Experience

It's kind of like the weather, everyone talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.  Actually, that's not true.  After all, doesn't that phrase insult the American Indian's rain dance?  Feathered headdresses aside, I'm referring to customer service.  Frankly, the condition of it is generally dismal.  If you have never experienced the anguish of a botched drive through order - is it really that difficult to keep your stinkin' pickles?  After all, they are the most vile vegetable matter ever conjured by demons.  But I digress. Despite the prevailing winds of unpleasant, unhelpful and bored customer service standards that exist at many businesses and particularly permeate the insurance industry, Azimuth's staff of dedicated professionals offer the most pleasant surprise since Grandpa got you that Red Ryder BB gun that you'd been asking for.  After 28 years, you either proved you were responsible or just finally wore the old fellow down. I just hope you are reading this with two functioning eyes.  

It's really about the people.  Azimuth is fortunate to have assembled a group of the most talented, dedicated and intelligent folks in the industry.  Here in the Midwestern part of the USA, where Azimuth is headquartered, finding nice folks is happily not that difficult.  Finding staff like Azimuth's is a great deal harder.  Every candidate is carefully screened for skill and knowledge - our staff averages over a decade of insurance industry experience - but it's the X factor that makes things tick like a Swiss watch for our clients.  Unlike the one I bought from that guy on the street - he said it was a Rolex.  I should have known that it's not spelled, "Rollax", sigh.  Back to our people. That X factor isn't the ability to hit a high note or juggle flaming chainsaws.  Although, that would be really cool if I could just get them to try it.  The Azimuth staff's X factor is their sincere desire to help our clients and apply their skills and knowledge to doing exactly that. Whether you call to ask a question, need a health care provider referral, have a claim or are in the middle of a life threatening emergency, the folks behind the scenes at Azimuth will be friendly, professional and ready to help any time of the day or night.  A whole lot better than what you probably experienced at your local driver's license branch.  Try calling them at 2:30 in the morning.  Tell the janitor 'hello' for me.

So, if you want to be treated in a manner to which you could become accustomed, make sure you take a careful look at AzimuthRisk.com before your next international trip or international work assignment.  

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cutting the String Between My Tomato Cans

The Simple Beauty of Online Travel and Medical Insurance Applications

Tisk, Tisk, Tisk! Flight Attendant
Tells Me I've Been a Bad, Bad, Boy
One of the best things to happen from these internet-enabled times, besides those seemingly limitless cat pictures, updates on what strangers had for lunch (how fascinating their rock solid grip on the mundane) and eternally archived episodes of Alf, is actually something exceedingly cool: the AzimuthRisk.com website. This is where you'll find, amongst other good stuff, our online quoting/application/fulfillment system.  You may think, "how can this stack up to that darling picture of Fluffy gnawing my little toe to a stump?".  Oh dear reader, it smacks Fluffy around like Michael Vick would after throwing 5 interceptions. This outstanding tool allows Azimuth's clients to do functions that would have been a wildly time consuming and cumbersome chore a scant 15 years ago.  Consider what you would have had to do.  First, you'd have to find where you could get travel insurance, sure you might have had a chat with your insurance professional, but you might have left your lunch out on the counter next to an open window that morning with the sun streaming on your sandwich.  Hungry and reckless, you decided that mayonnaise isn't all that bad even if it smells pretty rough.  Then, you went to see the agent and she hasn't let you back into her office since.  Besides the clear gastrointestinal issues, you never got a chance to discuss your need for travel medical insurance, never reviewed the benefits available to protect you and never had it in place when you traveled.  Then while abroad, you exhibited the same questionable culinary decision-taking ability and found yourself in the hospitMeridian Clearal with several concerned looking people saying things in a language you didn't understand.  Except for the, "tisk, tisk, tisk" which seems to translate into any language.  Instead, you can now visit AzimuthRisk.com, spend just a few minutes filling out your online Beacon Series application and the next thing you know...cats are surfing...no, instead, your email pings like you're living in Vegas and you've got all the travel medical insurance documents you need fresh and cooling in your inbox. 

If you are living internationally or planning to, you can select the Meridian Series Enhanced or Basic options.  There, you'll be able to do all the funky functions mentioned, but because our underwriters will need to evaluate your application, you'll have to delay your gratification by a few days.  Still, you won't need to worry about administrative folks attempting to decipher your name - admit it, your handwriting leaves a bit to be desired. The online system also beats working from the Rorschach test that's masquerading as a smudgy, unreadable fax.  Sending that mess once means you'll eventually need to send it more times than there are bad guys in the Matrix. Your electronic application will go instantly to an Azimuth's underwriter's computer screen.  Also, if you happen to be healthy and in a big hurry, you can choose the Meridian Clear and receive an instant online fulfillment.  Quick and simple.  Just like me.  Well, maybe I'm not quick, but people have said I'm simple.

PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 


PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Using My Shoehorn and 30 Ton Press

How does Azimuth pack so much into their international insurance plans?


Sometimes there are just so darn many benefits squeezed into the Azimuth portfolio of international health, travel medical and employee benefit insurance plans, I can barely pick up the brochure without throwing my back out.  All right, so maybe my back had more to do with trying to pick up that bag of Cheetos.  Hey, buying them in bulk only makes good financial sense.  So maybe the benefits really don't weigh all that much, but they sure are powerful.  Sorta like the Melinda Cooper
Melinda Cooper - quite a knockout
of the insurance world.  


It's not uncommon for us to have prospective clients contact us to ask if our premiums are really correct.  After being exposed to the current US rapidly escalating premium rates for health insurance, these clients sometimes just want to be certain that we're not too good to be true.  I inform them that while I may be too good to be true - or was that too bizarre to go far? - the plans are really, really good.  The premium that tags along with them, much like those fish that swim along right below the sharks, is really, really true and really, really small when you look at it in light of all the benefits intrinsic to the plan.  They still want to know how it is we do it.  First, we're a smaller (yet growing at a furious pace) company and since we are better at remembering people's names that we are titles, Azimuth takes pride in the fact that even though one of us may not know all the answers, (okay, the other folks here may have all the answers and I get distracted, but you get the idea) we will get you the assistance you need and extend every effort to make sure you're more satisfied than the cats that live next to the tuna cannery dumpster.  Now that we've established that you're not paying for my inflated salary and layers of extra management  the next benefit to the market Azimuth masters is controlling the costs of eligible expenses.  Because medical services outside of the US are typically 20-60% lower than US charges  you wind of being the lucky recipient of a lower premium rate that reflects the reduced cost of the offshore charges. Pretty slick, huh?  Slicker than greased whale droppings on an iceberg, I think.  Finally, Azimuth is able to offer a really great value because our plans do not qualify as standard domestic insurance plans.  This means that we are able to choose our risks much more effectively.  For those applying for the Beacon Series, there exists restrictive wording for existing conditions.  This means that while the plan will generally cover most negative developments to our insureds health, we do limit or exclude benefits for existing conditions to a very large extent.  For those considering making an application for a Meridian Series plan, we are able to accept the great majority of applicants.  However, we often issue riders for existing conditions.  A rider is an exclusion specific to an individual and to their existing condition(s).  These riders are usually denoted with a time frame, e.g. a 48 month wait for hypertension, etc.  This helps us to accept more insured members, limits Azimuth's exposure to known risks and perhaps most important to those clients who are already insured through Azimuth, keeps both the new and renewal premiums as affordable as possible.  We will also apply rate increases for those clients who are....um, let's say "under-tall" in relation to their weight.  Why are our underwriters so tough?  I mean they are Chuck Liddell tough.  But if you take a look at how your renewal premiums stack up in comparison to what you would be paying with competing plans in the market, you'll find them soft and cuddly.   I mean Mr. Whipple soft.  Don't squeeze them though; I find they get very agitated when I try.

PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 


PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Bargain's Only a Bargain When it's a Bargain and This is a Bargain

What a Deal - Meridian Series; First Two Kids Under 10 Free!

Ask almost any set of parents with young children what they need most and somewhere down the list, among ear plugs, duct tape and Valium, you will find saving money rising near the top of the metaphorical root beer float of a list containing their desirable items.   If you happen to be a member of this beleaguered demographic subset and have a lifestyle that would put you in a position to need international medical insurance, I have good news and bad news to share.  First the bad news.  Azimuth does not offer ear plugs or strong sticky tape and our prescription has lapsed.  The good news is that you can pull the ends off of cotton swabs, improvise with bungee cords and a dry martini offer some alternative solutions to your parenting problems.  Oh yeah; and if both mom & dad are insured on the Meridian Series major medical insurance plan, the first two children age 9 and younger are covered on the plan free, gratis, no charge!  Couple this with a the kids eat free specials at whatever passes for the local version of a Waffle House and you're on the way to saving the big bucks. Indeed, the even better news is that the value drenched Schedule of Benefits offered by the Meridian Series plan options will be there when you need it.  Unlike the feeling you get when someone doesn't bother to replace the paper roll in the necessary room.  

After all, living internationally can be tougher than trying to put a diaper on Chuck Norris.  Well, for another few years at least.  What do you do when your spouse finds out that you're living in this strange new place and one of the kids breaks an arm because the new monkey bars looked like fun because they were LOTS taller than the ones they were used to before they moved?  You'll likely take a trip to the local community hospital and finding out that the local country's 'social medical service' may be social but the medical and the service is found sorely wanting.  Unless you somehow enjoy the feeling of being torn to verbal bits (I hope it's verbal), you will definitely want to be sure you've got high quality, annually renewable, international medical insurance in place and ready to respond.  


PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 

PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more

Friday, June 21, 2013

Banging My Head Harder Than Usual

Pre-existing conditions and how they are(not) covered with travel medical insurance plans

   The other day, some guy I know had a fender-bender. When did 'fenders' become 'quarter panels'?  The body shop guys run the world I guess.  He was fuming that he'd been calling around to different insurance companies and couldn't find one that would take him as a client and at the same time, pay for the prior damage to his car.  Hey, I never said this guy was smart. This sort of thing has me banging my head harder than Greg Louganis at a Metallica concert.  Still, it got me thinking about how shocked and appalled some people are when they find out that travel medical plans won't cover the medical conditions they have full knowledge exist on or before the day the coverage begins.  Let's think this through a bit.  If an insurance plan offered coverage for existing conditions, it might be logical to expect that the insurer would get A LOT of claims for medical services related to them.  Many of them more expensive than Eddie Griffin's driving habits. As a result, one of three things would happen. First, because of the losses, the premiums for the insurance would rise to a level where only those who bathe in caviar and rinse in champagne would see it as affordable.  Second, the insurer would see the losses and it were Azimuth, Lloyd's would end our relationship faster than a Lindsay Lohan relapse. The third option is we could say we covered it and then didn't.  Nice trick, but it only works once, it's fraudulent and we'd see Lindsay Lohan results with this one too.  

So, what do you do if you do have an existing health condition?  Good question; which I'll answer if you can tell me where I left my keys a couple of weeks ago.  I still can't find them.  I'm really troubled because I can't unlock the Cheetos cabinet until I do.  It's particularly aggravating considering all the trouble I went to 'borrow' and copy the warden's key *sigh*.  Okay, I'll go ahead since you're not talking.  The Beacon Series offers a Sudden Onset of Pre-existing condition benefit up to $15,000.  Now, I just got done saying that existing conditions aren't covered.  My ADD is bad but it's not Michael Jackson Bad. I always wondered how he came up with the one glove thing.  Didn't his other hand get cold?  So, pre-ex isn't covered as a general rule, but the Sudden Onset benefit allows for a little wiggle room.  It won't pay for maintenance medications, meaning that if you're using an ongoing prescription drug, that's still your responsibility and won't be an eligible expense.  However, if you are traveling and have a sudden recurrence, what most of us would call an attack (note: there are certain plan wording specifications regarding this, please see here for the description), the Sudden Onset benefit rides to the rescue with up to $15,000 worth of benefits.  Pretty sweet, huh?    It's a whole lot better than banging your head against the wall; which is what you will feel like doing when working with other insurance providers.


PS. Insurance is the Brussels sprout of subjects.  You know you need to understand it for your own good and I'll work to make it palatable (if it doesn't work, feed me to the dog under the table).  So, if you enjoy learning a little more about it in an (occasionally) entertaining way, then someone else might too.  Share the love via social media or get on the subscriber list.  After all - Don't cost nuttin' 
PPS. Living or traveling internationally now or soon?  Contact your insurance agent and demand to see what Azimuth Risk Solutions can do for you.  Or, visit www.AzimuthRisk.com to learn more