Covering the chronic medical conditions of expat employees

Why should expat employers have a global benefit plan that covers chronic medical conditions? In today’s globalized economy, more and more companies are sending employees overseas to help their companies expand their markets. This includes companies involved in mining, engineering, manufacturing, oil & gas, legal and much more.  These expatriates are a vital asset for multinationals and organizations who want to retain and attract global talent. These expats are a key part of any multinational’s global success. However, many of these expat employees or their dependents may suffer from unseen medical conditions, otherwise known as chronic medical conditions. These “hidden diseases”, otherwise known as chronic conditions, are not something that companies can ask their current or future employees about.

There are many chronic diseases and conditions that an expat employee or his or her dependents may suffer from. A chronic condition is defined as being a disease which last three months or more and can’t be prevented or cured by medication. It has been reported that 88% of Americans over age 65 suffer from a chronic condition and the rates of such conditions increase with age. The rates for expats abroad under age 65 must also be quite high as well. Unfortunately, tobacco, alcohol and poor eating habits can increase your risk of developing a chronic condition. Sometimes its related to genetics or just bad luck. As an expat employer, you often can’t screen out employees with chronic conditions for a variety of reasons, such as legal restrictions. It is key that you get the best global talent possible and our firm have heard of expats who refuse expat postings because their employer doesn’t have a benefit plan that will cover their chronic condition or their dependent’s pre-existing medical condition.

Five well-known chronic conditions are heart disease, arthritis, HIV, diabetes, or depression have minimal symptoms at the very beginning. Below are a list of five significant chronic conditions that expat employers should consider when setting up a global medical plan:

Heart Disease: Otherwise known as cardiovascular disease, is a term describing diseases including the heart and blood vessels, whether the blood vessels are affecting other parts of the body. In many countries, heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults. Heart problems can cause a variety of symptoms such as chest pain, fast and pounding heartbeat and irregular heartbeats, or even shortness of breath. If diagnosed early, heart problems can be managed in many ways. Expats should take diagnostic tests regularly and discuss with doctor about the best treatment options. To prevent and control heart disease, expats should stay away from tobacco. Another good way to maintain healthy is regular exercises.

Arthritis: Is a chronic condition characterized by joint pain, stiffness and swelling. People of all ages can be affected. It has been reported that arthritis and related conditions are the leading cause of disability in the US, with nearly 43 million Americans affected. It has also been discovered by scientists that arthritis has a strong association with major depression, with an estimated risk of 18.1%. Physical activities have been shown to benefit people on preventing arthritis and related conditions.

Depression & Mental Illness: According to a recent research, in the UK, one in four people will suffer from a mental illness at some point in their lives. In the US, 18% of the population suffers from some form of anxiety or depression. Depression may not manifest itself until the stress of working overseas presents itself. These unseen mental conditions can go serious when they come to expat employees, whether they are on a short assignment or are a long-term expat. Unfortunately, many expat benefit plans we examine have mental illness exclusions or limitations.

Diabetes: According to the research of International SOS, failure to manage diabetes can cause a greater risk to an expat than an infectious disease. And The World Health Organization estimated that the number of adults with diabetes is expected to reach 592 million by 2035. Travelling across different time zones can complicate schedules for taking medications. When working and living overseas, expats also need to be careful not to run out of necessary medications. Expat employees should keep in mind that always consult a doctor before finding medication replacements. This can be very dangerous to your health.

expat healthcare if critical

HIV: Known as human immunodeficiency virus, this illness will weaken your body’s immune system and make you very sick. It has been reported by many sources that there are approximately 37 million people around the world who have the HIV virus. It has been widely acknowledged that there is no cure for HIV, but with proper medications and care, most people with HIV can avoid getting AIDS. While HIV used to be a death sentence, it is now seen as a chronic condition. Travelers and expats with HIV need to take proper medical plan when planning travel schedules. Most expat group insurance plans will exclude HIV, but we can source group plans that can fully cover this chronic condition.

The Dangers of Unseen Medical Conditions  

Due to the fact that healthcare providers vary dramatically between countries, expat employees living and working abroad with unseen medical conditions will rely upon medication within the country, and the duration of expat assignment. If expat employees are traveling in a location where the medical facilities are substandard, then the unseen illness can be seriously affected. An untreated chronic condition can quickly lead to a more serious medical claim and a failed expat assignment.

Some expat employers might be tempted to have the expatriate employees covered by a local or government group insurance plan. However, the local medical plan would usually only cover very basic medical conditions with long waiting lists. It is generally much better to have them covered under a global group benefit program with life, AD&D, disability, dental, evacuation and especially international health insurance coverage. A good global benefit plan should fully cover pre-existing medical conditions

How do Health Insurers Work with Chronic Conditions

Because many of your expatriate employees or their dependents may suffer from a chronic condition, it is important to have a plan that will cover pre-existing medical conditions coverage. All individual expat health insurance plans will either exclude a pre-existing medical condition, ask for additional premium or simply decline the application. For group plan, because the risk is spread among healthy and unhealthy people, they can often cover pre-existing medical conditions if the number of employees covered is large enough – usually 10 or 20 employees. We often run into clients who have placed their expats under a group plan that excludes chronic conditions, leaving both the employee and the employer at risk for a denied claim. However, we work global medical insurance companies who can provide full coverage for pre-existing medical conditions on the medical coverage for both the employees and dependents if the employer has more than 25 or 30 global employees – including both expats and local nationals.

international health insurance for chronic conditions

These excellent insurance plans can even provide full coverage for an expat group of only two or three expat employees. This is excellent for any expat employer as almost all employees or dependents, especially older ones, will have at least one pre-existing medical condition.

Obtain an Expat Group Insurance Plan that Covers Chronic Medical Conditions

Fortunately, Expat Financial can source international expat group insurance plans are available for companies with expatriates that can fully cover most, if not all chronic conditions. Some of the group expat plans we can source can even fully pre-existing medical conditions, which really is a must if you are an expatriate employer in today’s market looking for the best global talent. Expat Financial is able to offer flexible international expat group insurance plans in most parts of the globe:  Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East, North America, South America, Caribbean, Oceania, Central America, and most major cities in the world. When your employees are sent overseas and experience a medical emergency that can’t be handled in the host country due to limitation of medical facilities and shortage of equipment or medications, it is very important to have an international health insurance plan that provides international emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage. A group plan will also offer international evacuation insurance plan that will enable urgent treatment abroad if required. All of these services are vital when you employ expats and their dependents who have these “hidden diseases.” 

As international insurance specialists, we can help you define your group’s international group insurance requirements in today’s global market. We have the experience, knowledge and global insurance contacts that expat employers require – only a specialist brokerage can adequately provide the independent advice, solutions and ongoing service and support to clients around much of the world.

For more information, contact Expat Financial today.