Healthcare Option For Chinese-Australian Community

Healthcare giant Bupa has announced the opening of its first ethnicity-specific retail store, catering to the Chinese market. The new store has opened its doors on the edge of inner-city Chinatown in Sydney and has been staffed with Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking employees. The store also provides translated material to complement the health and wellness sessions and workshops that address the needs of the local community.

The news is in keeping with Bupa’s strategy to expand its membership in a time of uncertainty over the future of health care. The expansion decision comes at a time when coverage rates have stagnated and the effect of the means-testing system is still unclear. A Bupa spokesperson commented that 60% of the Australian population expansion was expected to come from migrant families over the next 40 years and that the company had taken advantage of the opportunity by catering to the Chinese-Australian community.

healthcare for minority ethnic groupsBupa has motivated the decision by an early recognition of changing market trends, in an effort to meet, and monopolise on, the changing needs of the evolving Australian public. The company says they had considered different groups such as people of Indian, Vietnamese and Arabic descent before settling on the Chinese market. The motivating factor for the decision has been the size of the group and the fact that Bupa had global parent operations in Hong Kong and China. Bupa has ensured that it will be the provider of choice if local Chinese people conduct a health insurance comparison.

The group has appointed a multicultural team to expand its vision and manage its strategy to ensure that the needs of the local people are met. The largest Chinese community in Australia is to be found in New South Wales and Bupa has considered its first footprint in Sydney to be an essential part of its global expansion strategy. The Chinese community will now have access to more targeted healthcare and health information in their mother tongue as well as healthcare that is specific to their ethnic needs. Private health insurance is a relatively new concept in China but is becoming widely adopted and memberships are growing rapidly.

Bupa currently has 3-million members and seeks to expand its membership base. Health insurance sign ups have increased by less than one per cent over the last year and 2% over the last three years.

Parents of Australian citizens can now have their visas extended and spend more time with their families when visiting them from overseas. The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has explained that government has wanted to be more generous to tourists and extend family visits. The new laws mean that government will award a five year tourist visa, with a 12-month period applicable to each entry for those who are already in the queue for parent visas from outside the country. For those who are not yet in the queue government may extend a three year visa, depending on the individual application, also with a 12-month stay for each entry into the country. The Minister further explained that family visits had a positive social impact for relatives.

In order to be eligible visitors need to meet specific qualifying criteria such as having enough funds in their bank account, having the relevant health insurance to cover any medical costs during their stay and meet health and character requirements stipulated by the government.

The changes are expected to take effect by the end of 2012. Tourist visa holders are limited in their applications for their visit while they are visiting relatives in Australia. As part of the protocol they will also be required to spend time outside of the country in between each entry.

Jenni Proctor

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