Traditional medical insurance coverage extends to employees who occasionally travel abroad for work. But employees who engage in humanitarian actions in unstable countries need more coverage. Here’s what you need to know about international healthcare benefits and how to keep your employees safe.
Watch out for (all) the gaps
Most employers offer business travel accident insurance policies that cover injury, dismemberment, and death. Some add workers’ compensation, and the exact coverage varies. Business travel accident insurance, along with a medical policy from Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna, or Aetna, can protect employees who travel for a week or two abroad, but it is not. sufficient for expats living abroad who need emergency medical and security coverage.
Employers need to first understand their existing overseas travel insurance policies – what they have and the extent of protection – and then need to identify any gaps. This can be easier said than done, as it can involve multiple consultants and contracts across an organization.
A large international nonprofit client of Corporate Synergies recently expanded its humanitarian efforts, and we needed to step up emergency and security protection. First, we looked at the organization’s existing insurance policies to understand what they already covered and, more importantly, what was not covered. We have learned that most major medical insurance companies offer an international component to extend coverage for international medical and dental emergencies, prescription or replacement medication, and medical evacuations. We issued a call for tenders to carriers and worked with the customer to give their employees access to a global network of suppliers.
Resolve medical emergencies
Medical insurance and business travel accident insurance typically cover employees traveling for short periods, helping if someone loses their passport or luggage, or becomes ill. But employees who travel several weeks or months at a time, especially in unstable countries with political turmoil, need better access to medical care and security services. These employees will not be able to use the socialized medical services that exist in some countries.
The plan we chose for our international non-profit client helped us identify a partner for crisis assistance. While the association’s current business travel accident policy covered kidnapping ransoms, it did not include rescue services. Without boots on the ground to help, the blanket was worthless. While employee kidnappings seem like something that only happens in movies, our client was working in countries where it could happen.
As part of the new service that we have put in place, the client’s employees now have an application integrating the medical plan and the international safety plan. This umbrella app houses all the coverage and help resources. It’s a one-stop-shop for all services, whether an employee has a medication problem, faces an emergency, needs medical advice, or wants access to a travel advisory. The carrier decides on medical claims, while the security partner provides the application and manages the associated services.
Develop a formal travel policy
It’s a good idea to educate employees when booking travel on how to get help if they need it overseas. Our non-profit client has created a push notification for this purpose. When an employee books a trip, the system immediately alerts HR so that HR can ensure that the individual is aware of all coverages and receives the appropriate training before leaving on the trip. HR is also reminding travelers to download the app, and the company is holding seminars to teach travelers how to connect, access suppliers, add travel details and more.
Review international policies frequently
Our client’s basic insurance program has not changed since 2017, but management and HR have added essential protections and features, including traveler tracking and improved kidnapping and ransom coverage. Employers should review carriers and policies annually to ensure they meet the needs of employees on the go. As insurance companies monitor global events, they may change or stop coverage in certain parts of the world. Employers should communicate with their insurance companies and indicate where their employees will be going to make sure they have policies in place.