How Global Mobility Managers and Expats Can Work Out a Good Healthcare Plan

Health remains a priority among assignees and insurance and coverage for it are some of the items they might put on their wish list before they sign the job offer you are handing them. As one of our earlier blogs had reported it, accessibility to medical services is non-negotiable for most of them.

Global mobility managers facing this also find themselves having to balance two major concerns:  granting the assignees their requirement, which is logical, considering they are about to transfer to a foreign place of employment; and checking if the bills that their company would pay are actually affordable.

The assignee’s health care, after all, comes under the care of the company. As the Affordable Care Act stipulates, companies should provide preventive, emergency, and remedial health coverage to immigrant workers or assignees with a working visa. This coverage may also extend to their dependents, especially minors.

One way to manage both expectations is to be aware of the medical conditions that your assignee might have, or be susceptible to. The health providers global mobility managers contract usually do a screening exam which shows certain illnesses that assignees already have, and thus must be provided for;  or the exam can reveal medical predispositions that the assignees may be vulnerable to, due to genetics or a previous accident, but which have not yet emerged. Again, the health provider needs to know this in order to respond to it at a later date.

Global mobility managers should also bear in mind that the discovery of a medical condition or a predisposition can affect the kind of coverage that the health provider would eventually decide to give the assignee. If the latter has a chronic disease such as high blood pressure, for example, then the health provider might ask the company to pay more than the standard rate.

Companies and recruiting firms that assign and deploy expats are very much aware of this, and make pre-screening part of the process. At the same time, global mobility managers should keep track of the medical conditions that assignees and expatriates usually contract in order to minimize risks while maintaining their access to a large pool of global talent.  These are the following medical conditions that they should watch out for:

Arthritis: People often associate this medical condition with the elderly, but it actually afflicts a wide scale of demographics, including the active thirtysomething to the still-energetic fiftysomething crowd. More than 40 million Americans suffer from it.  Expat Financial characterizes it as related to the joints, usually in the form of stiffness and swelling. The first few signs of arthritis should not be ignored; its progress can be debilitating to the assignee who will eventually find it hard to walk, move, or lift objects — all of which will impair their performance.

Should an assignee be diagnosed with arthritis, then the global mobility manager should encourage him to see a therapist and perform the exercises that the latter would usually prescribe.

Heart disease:  Expat Financial’s naming this medical condition should not be surprising, given the kind of pressure that assignees — especially those in the C-level suite =- are regularly exposed to. Heart disease includes the damage that blood vessels and the cardiovascular system incur through triggers like too much fat in the bloodstream. Stroke and heart attacks are often the consequences. Heart disease, though, can be prevented by a strict adherence to a healthy low-carb, low-fat diet, regular exercise, and a lifestyle not dependent on the consumption of alcohol or tobacco.

If an assignee has any heart-related condition, the global mobility manager should also take the extra mile in seeing to it that they are not unduly stressed. It would also be helpful to take the assignee on a tour of the more healthy establishments in the area, such as gyms, health centers, calorie-conscious restaurants, and nature parks where the assignee can de-stress without overexerting themselves.

Mental health such as depression and anxiety: The Human Resource Executive Online says that expatriates and assignees are more prone to these conditions than at first realized. That’s because assignees know they have been contracted to perform to the best of their abilities in a foreign land — and thus will not admit to any vulnerability or emotional weakness. As such, they battle their own insecurities and loneliness alone, resulting in a growing sense of isolation.

The National adds that a generous compensation package may not be enough to remove the assignee’s unspoken concerns about their own job security, welfare of their family, or their ability to integrate into their new country of employment. They may bottle up these emotions and don’t address them. Without any form of release, they tend to magnify their fears, and anxiety and/or depression sets in. If the expat is discriminated at work, that can add up to his discomfort.

As reported in one of our blogs, depression can and will affect an assignee’s performance. Their usual ability to deliver will decrease. They will act indifferently towards their clients and deadlines. A few days’ leave will not remove this condition — at this stage in the game, only a medical professional, even a psychologist or psychiatrist can help the depressed assignee respond to their condition and get away from it.

In his interview with The National, Dr. Martin Baggaley says that depression is “the leading cause of lost days at work and loss of productivity and suffering worldwide.”

High blood pressure, a stroke, arthritis, depression, anxiety, and emotional paralysis — all these can bog down even a high performer. Global mobility managers must be quick to spot these conditions in a pre-screening health exam, or their symptoms once the assignee is already working. Should the diagnosis be confirmed, the global mobility manager must then provide a support system that can help the assignee combat and/or manage their condition. He just might find his own network — the health provider, his company, other allies like California Corporate Housing — more than willing to assist him in the recovery of his assignee back to their optimal best.