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expatriate employee insurance

Top seven global insurance considerations before sending expat employees overseas

More and more multinational companies are opening offices around the world, including in regions such as Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and South America. While working and living abroad can be a very exiting opportunity for expat employees, expat employers have a fiduciary responsibility to provide adequately protect their expat employees and achieve a successful expat assignment – this includes purchasing global medical coverage. In this article, we will discuss the top seven global insurance considerations you should consider before sending employees on overseas assignments.

Coverage – Local or International Coverage

In many countries with limited or no local health insurance coverage or health infrastructure, an expat employer should put their expat employees on an international expat group insurance plan. A local plan is designed for local coverage and does not provide the portability that most expat employees require. A proper international health benefit plan will provide medical coverage each time an expat employee is moved from one country to another without having to change plans, apply for new coverage or satisfy a new waiting period. Furthermore, in some nations where local health benefits coverage may be available, most expatriate employees will want to use a major stable currency instead of local currency when dealing with insurance claims. Therefore, obtaining an global international expat group insurance plan is very important prior to relocating to a new country or destination. Local plans are great for locals, not usually good for expats. 

Special Risk Insurance 

Many companies are exploring new markets and resources in areas with unstable local governments or conflicts, which are often considered to be high risk countriesThe potential damages and costs caused by acts of war, terrorism and kidnapping are quite tramatic and can be very high for employers. 

If your company or organization is operating in high risk zones, it is critical to source full coverage for war and terrorism risks, kidnap and ransom insurance for expatriate employees.

Medical Emergency Evacuation

Medical emergency evacuation insurance plan is also critical for any expat employees working abroad, especially if residing in a region with limited medical facilities or health clinics that are not up to western standards. However, even residing in a highly developed country, medical evacuation may also be required – for example, if they are residing in a remote region of the country or require an air ambulance.

When your employees are posted overseas and experience a medical emergency that can’t be addressed in the host country, it is critical that your organization have a comprehensive evacuation insurance planMost expatriate group health insurance plans will provide emergency evacuation and repatriation as an option or include it as a standard benefit. Note that a medical evacuation must be approved and coordinated by the health insurance company. Most group plans will include evacuation as an optional benefit. 

Will the Health Insurance Plan Cover Pre-existing Medical Conditions?

A pre-existing medical condition relates to a medical condition that existed prior to an insurance company taking on the risk of an insured, sometimes known or even unknown by the employee. If an expat develops an illness later on it may be recognized as a pre-existing condition when trying to obtain health coverage. For example, you may have an employee who has high blood pressure, diabetes or a skin disorder. 

Most expat employers may not aware of the cost of the treatment of chronic diseases for expatriate employees overseas can be very high. It usually requires medical treatment to cover ongoing health needs. Individual expat health and life insurance plans have to be medically underwritten and employees who are under separate individual plans may have restricted coverage, exclusions or even be declined when applying pre-existing medical coverage. Whereas a group international benefit plan can usually offer full coverage for pre-existing medical conditions because the risk is shared among healthy and unhealthy employees and their dependents. We will often recommend to our group clients that they purchase a plan that fully covers pre-existing medical conditions.

Health Insurance Plan Administration

A tailored international group insurance plan provides simple administration platform for your HR department. It can provide for the instant communication online between employees, insurance company and HR administrators. This is especially convenient for highly mobile expat employees. It is very important for your expat employees to move from one country to another without worrying to switch from one local health insurance plan to another. It is important that HR managers consider a plan that has excellent plan administration when choosing a global medical plan.

Seeking Advice from an Experienced Broker

It never makes sense to obtain global medical coverage for your employees on your own – your HR manager will not have the necessary experience, training, knowledge or global insurance contacts that are required for your expanding expat population. Expat Financial, a division of TFG Global Insurance Solutions Ltd., can source international group insurance plans from a variety of large and respected insurance companies for multinational companies, Non-government Organizations, non-profits, governments and international schools. We work on your behalf to source the best possible quotes and assist you once a plan is put in place – both at renewal and throughout the life of the policy.

In addition to medical and evac, we can source coverage for disability, AD&D, Life Insurance, EAP and dental. Our company is very used to working with companies and aid groups which operate in high risk countries such as Democratic Republic of CongoIraqAfghanistanNigeriaSouth SudanEritreaSomalia and Yemen. The plans that we can source can provide full coverage for war and terrorism risks

Individual Plans for your Expat Employees

For companies with less than 3 expatriate employees or individual expatriates, we can also source individual International Health Insurance Protection as well as individual expat life and disability plans. Note that individual plans have to be medically underwritten, so final coverage, rates and coverage will be subject to medical underwriters at the insurance company. To find out more, contact Expat Financial to discuss your organization’s requirements and obtain quotes from the market. Read more about our group expat insurance plans on our corporate page.

 

The impact of noncommunicable chronic diseases for expats

How the Global Impact of Chronic Conditions is Impacting Expatriates

Recently, Cigna has released a study on the global epidemic of noncommunicable chronic diseases and held a seminar for their brokers and clients. The study examined the situation of noncommunicable chronic diseases around the world and provided excellent suggestions for prevention. According to World Health Organization (WHO), a noncommunicable chronic disease is characterized by long duration and generally slow progression – these conditions are becoming more commonplace for local nationals and even expats. The wide spread of chronic diseases are putting expatriates’ health at risk. In this article, we will discuss the main types of chronic diseases based on Cigna’s research and advice for expatriate communities from expatriate health insurance professional perspective.

The Global Epidemic of Chronic Disease is Increasing 

As stated by Cigna’s study, noncommunicable diseases account for six in ten deaths worldwide. Major noncommunicable chronic diseases usually refer to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. According to Cigna’s report, approximately 19% of the American have diabetes, the figure rises up to 30% in Middle East; Just over 30% of Chinese have some form of diabetes. This is the leading cause of kidney failure, blindness, heart diseases, stroke and death.

The rates of obesity in adults and children are increasing globally. And in some parts of the world, the situation is getting worse. Obesity is another cause of cardiovascular diseases due to the force of the heart to push around a greater volume of blood, which easily causes high blood pressure. Scientists predict by 2025, one in five of the population will suffer from obesity; 36.5% of adults are considered obese, according to Cigna’s report.

How to Prevent from Noncommunicable Chronic Diseases as an Expat? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most chronic diseases are caused by three major risk factors: an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and tobacco. Many expats working abroad often do not have the time to eat healthy foods or exercise and may be surrounded by fast food restaurants, vending machines and food trucks. However, building a healthy diet is crucial for your health when living and working abroad. When shopping at grocery stores, make sure to cut the high-sugar and high-carbohydrate food from your shopping list. Replace them with vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs and other healthy choices based on your eating schedule.

Regular exercise is good for your body, both physically and mentally. However, expats may find hard to rebuild an exercise routing when working and living abroad. Many expat may live in cities with few exercise options or in very extreme climates or in areas with bad security. Often the easiest way to start exercising is practicing yoga at home or purchase an exercise machine. Expats should develop a personal exercise routine and live an active lifestyle.

International Health Insurance is Critical for Expats Worldwide 

Most expat employers may not aware of the cost of the treatment of chronic diseases for expatriate employees overseas can be very high. It usually requires a specific plan to cover ongoing health needs. If an expat develops an illness later on it may be recognized as a pre-existing condition when trying to obtain health coverage. A global benefit plan can offer full coverage for pre-existing medical conditions to avoid claims being denied or coverage being restricted for expat employees. 

Expat Financial is able to offer flexible international expat group insurance plans  in most regions around the globe:  Africa, Europe, Asia, Middle East, North America, South America, Caribbean, Oceania, Central America, and all major cities in the world. Expat Financial can also offer international health insurance plans for individual expatriates that may be able to cover some existing chronic conditions depending on their severity and subject to underwriter approval. International health insurance plan provides day-patient care and full hospital coverage, extensive cancer coverage, maternity and baby care (conditions may apply), dental & vision care and international medical evacuation and repatriation. This is especially important for expats going to visit rural area in some less developed countries.

If you have questions about international medical insurance plans we offer to individual expats or your company requires a global expatriate group insurance plan, please contact us or complete the quote form. We look forward to hearing from you soon. 

Future Expat Employee Trends for Expatriate Employers

expat employees

Cigna has recently released a detailed study on expatriate trends for global employers with the National Foreign Trade Council Cigna Global Benefits surveyed employees on how they felt about the benefits offered by expat employees – such as housing, income, taxation, education and of course insurance. This is very valuable for global mobility managers because Cigna set up anonymous feedback from the employees for candid feedback from over 100 countries. We wanted to summarize the findings from an expat insurance specialist perspective and provide our insights and opinions for our expat clients and prospective clients around the world.

Global Mobility Changes

Global mobility has been changing over the past 10 years, including how female expats are being supported by expat employers. Many female expats are not feeling well served by their employers. Cigna also noted how the internet has really changed the communication between expats and employers over the past decade. What’s remained consistent is that the number of US expatriates is going down, probably because American expats are considered expensive employees. They are definitely more expensive to insure as they require global coverage including the United States.

Also, more and more expats being sent abroad to developing and third world destinations and less to well developed markets such as Europe. Asia and Africa are key destinations for expats in 2017. This creates more complexity for expat employers when sending people to third world locations such as Lagos or Cambodia.

What do Expat Value? 

In the study, expats noted that before they took on an expat assignment, what they valued the most was:

  • Relocation Services
  • Settlement Services
  • Medical preparedness

When expatriates were going to a location, expats found that overall assignment preparedness was crucial, especially since the cost of a failed assignment can be up to 4 times their salary.

Expat Communication is Critical

The study also found that expat employees had some insights on communications. Many expats felt that employers did not communicate often enough with them before going overseas. Obviously income was a key part of communications, but also moving arrangements and medical benefits when living abroad. Expats wanted to know more about how to live in new location, restaurants, exercise, safety and of course where they can obtain medical assistance. Providing a list of hospitals that the expat medical plan has a direct relationship is something our firm sees as an easy communication to provide as top flight medical providers such as Cigna have this all online for free.

Added Value for Expats is Important

Another suggestion that we find helpful for expats is cross culture training, language courses and even tax assistance. Our firm has many contacts with providers in all these areas. In fact, we work with some excellent expat tax specialists who can assist your expat population. Mentoring from other expats in the new country location is really important for many expatriates. As an expat employer, you want to make your employees as comfortable and settled in their new location so they can hit the road running.

Medical Care

The study also found several items related to medical care that are quite interesting. This includes

  • Over 70% of expat employees use medical care while living abroad regardless of age
  • More expats are becoming comfortable getting medical care locally if its of a high quality and available.
  • Emergency evacuation is still an important concern
  • Having a large medical network and not having to pay out of pocket is quite important for expatriates. In our dealings with expat and their employers, we find this to be the number one concern of expatriates.
  • Expats in North America reported more access to mental illness services

The above observations and trends are often experienced by our expat group clients. The study did not talk about other insurance benefits that are critical for expat employees and employers – such as global life and accident coverage, dental, employee assistance and long term disability insurance. More often than not employers only address the medical insurance component with these other vital services as an after thought. We also find that medical coverage for their partners and children is also a critical concern for most expats, so this should be a factor for employers. Some firms will only provide coverage for the employees and leave the employee to obtain more expensive coverage for his or her dependents, which we feel is an ineffective expat employment strategy.

Our firm believes that if you want to have a higher chance of a successful expat assignment, you need to have a comprehensive and effective global benefit platform that is sourced by an independent expat specialist firm. Claims issues and complaints from expat employees half way around the world can quickly bog down an HR department and lead to failed assignments.

global medical

Balancing Expat Assignment Costs

Expatriates realize that their HR Managers are very concerned about the costs associated with expat assignments, perhaps 3 or 4 times the annual salary when all benefits are worked in, but companies also have to have a benefit plan and compensation package that will both attract and retain valuable global expat talent. We find that global medical premiums often rise approximately 9 to 15% per year assuming normal claiming patterns to keep up with health inflation trends. At renewal the insurers will often present higher deductible and coinsurance options, but these are very difficult to implement in the expat sector as these employees expect global medical plans that are attractive, easy to use and at little or no cost to their pocket books.

Repatriation

Another concern for expats is repatriation, which generally means moving expats back to their home country, next opportunity or another expat country assignment. Most employers have little or no repatriation program for their employees. Reverse culture shock can even be an issue for many employees coming home from countries with radically different cultures.

If your company has expatriates located abroad and would like a second opinion on your global benefit plan, it pays to work with an expatriate insurance specialist firm such as Expat Financial, which is a division of TFG Global Insurance Solutions Ltd.. Contact us today to discuss your expatriate insurance program, provide a detailed analysis and obtain quotes from the market.

 

The Cigna study can be found Cigna global expat trends study.

TFG Global is a valued broker for both individual and group plans from Cigna and our contacts at the company are both extensive and high level. We have worked with Cigna for many years and know their capabilities and plans inside out. For more information on the corporate Cigna plan we offer expats, click HERE. We also offer their individual global health plan.

You can listen to the interview at:

https://www.cignaglobalhealth.com/resources/podcasts/episode-1-globally-vocal.html?__prclt=5A7VZBzf

Or listen below: