Health Insurance Considerations Ahead of an International Assignment

December 20, 2019

As companies expand their operations around the world, relocation experts and HR departments must look at health care options from a global perspective. Employees typically find international assignments to be fulfilling and enriching experiences, but health complications while on assignment can lead to a negative experience if resources aren’t in place to remedy the situation.  

Why health insurance is important for international assignees 

Employees that are cared for and healthy usually are productive, happy employees. And it’s important that every employee who is sent abroad, whether for a short-term assignment or one that spans years, is covered by an international health insurance plan to ensure their health stays in top shape. Similar to domestic coverage, these types of plans should cover both routine and emergency health care issues, giving your employees peace of mind during an international assignment.  

International health insurance options for international employees

There are a number of options to choose from when looking into health care plans for employees going on international assignments, but there are two routes that companies generally pursue. 

U.S. insurance carrier 

It’s typical for group health care policies offered by the major U.S. carriers to incorporate provisions for reimbursement of claims made overseas for the treatment of an emergency injury or illness. With that said, there are instances when these types of visits will be treated as out-of-network. Check with your insurance carrier to identify these types of situations and inform your employees so they’re able to stay in-network when possible. 

Global Business Travel Accident (BTA)

Typically speaking, BTA coverage is obtained in case of an accidental death. With that said, there are additional services within BTAs that usually include out-of-country accident and emergency sickness medical coverage, as well as emergency medical and security evacuation coverage.

Educate international employees on how to use their health insurance plan 

Ahead of an international assignment, it’s important for employees to be familiar with the intricacies of their plan. Make sure to thoroughly train employees on what steps to take should they encounter a medical emergency. 

Some recommendations for doing so include: 

  • Hold one-on-one or group trainings with your international assignees ahead of the move
  • Develop communications that are readily available through company servers or intranet – mobile access is recommended
  • In addition to login information for online access of insurance information, provide your international assignees physical copies of their insurance cards 
  • Create a database of locations that will accept your assignees insurance plan when on assignment 

Even though medical emergencies are unfortunate, sometimes they are unavoidable. If any of your assignees encounter one, they will be relieved to have devoted time covering logistics before the assignment. 

Other international travel considerations

Vaccines for international travel

In addition to basic health coverage, those preparing for an international assignment – particularly ones who are bringing children – should prioritize getting doctor-recommended vaccinations ahead of the move. While some vaccines are widely regarded as commonplace – measles, polio and Typhoid, to name a few – others are not as obvious. Take the time to bring your employees up to speed on what vaccines are suggested for their destination. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has an extensive list on the subject. 

Prescription medications 

Having access to medications is something that truly can have life-changing ramifications. While almost all countries differ in their rules and regulations for bringing prescriptions into the nation, some are known to be stricter than others. Japan, for example, is recognized as one of the most stringent in the world when it comes to bringing in prescription medications. 

According to the CDC, the easiest way to ensure an employees’ medication is permitted in the country is to check with the embassy. Also, it’s important to obtain and carry copies of the original prescription. A letter from the assignee’s doctor, describing why the medications are needed, also is a good idea. To go a step further, translate this letter into the local language. 

As companies continue to expand their operations on a global scale, they must have comprehensive international health care plans in place – especially if they want to recruit and retain candidates for international assignments. While there are a number of ways to ensure employees have appropriate medical coverage on an assignment, it’s important to first plan far in advance and know your organization’s options.

If you’re looking for help identifying the right international health care plans for your business, give us a call or contact us here.

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