Good Insurance Plan Can Help Alleviate Worries of Expats Amid Current Crisis

Adapting to the new normal amid such a health crisis is challenging enough, but expats and relocated Americans in the United States are also aware of the challenges they face in a more devastating way — how to navigate the pangs of separation and isolation from their families as well as the layers of complexity to their situation being away from their home country or city.

For those who are away and even possibly alone, without families or filial relationships around, the isolation can be stressful. Whereas an office or family setting provides interaction with another human being, work moved to a residential home or corporate housing, without a human being in sight, is beyond social distancing. 

Alone with one’s thoughts for a very long time is unhealthy; one needs to parlay anxiety with proactive long-term goals that benefit assignee’s families. Turning one’s attention to extending family support is essential, and having backup plans can alleviate needless worrying. 

For employers and global mobility professionals, it’s imperative that assignees are taken care of. If one works for a multinational employer, for instance, the global mobility professional needs to remind employers to work out a Global Business Travel Accident (BTA) insurance plan for their employees. 

From a company’s perspective and hoping it actually benefits employees, this business travel accident insurance policy should serve the following purposes:

  • supplement the current benefit structure
  • enforce the company’s commitment to the care of their employees and their families
  • provide high limit benefits for a comparable low cost and 
  • reduce the risk against potential litigation 

The benefit(s) included under the travel accident insurance plan as outlined by Willis Towers Watson are payable in addition to any other group or individual plan (double indemnity). Eligibility is usually extended to include all employees or specifically designated classes of assignees. What makes it a great plan is how the coverage extends to non-employee directors, consultants and guests of the policyholder.

From the assignee’s perspective, a global BTA insurance plan can be instrumental in meeting an employer’s duty of care obligation for them. What is reassuring is how COVID-19 has highlighted additional benefits often extended under a Global BTA program. 

These include out-of-country medical coverage for accident and sickness, travel assistance services including medical evacuation and repatriation of mortal remains and travel inconvenience cover for trip cancellation/interruption/delay. 

Furthermore, in the quickly changing arena of business travel, clients are now looking at broadening their programs to also include commutation (to/from work) as employees alter their daily commute from trains/buses/subways to cars, mopeds, bicycles, etc. In addition, as a result of the broadened commuting exposure, accident medical (domestic) can also be extended under a BTA Policy.

  • If an employee has travelled for business outside their country of residence and become infected with COVID-19, an out-of-country medical provision should cover these emergency healthcare expenses until they return home. The provisions within BTA plans can vary and not all plans include this medical provision. Additionally, some plans have a maximum medical benefit, others have an unlimited benefit. Also, while not typical in the U.S. market, in some countries pandemic claims may be excluded and it’s important to check the policy provisions and update as necessary.
  • If evacuation is deemed medically necessary, the cost would be covered under the BTA policy. If there is an unfortunate loss of life, the cost of repatriation of mortal remains may be covered 

Beyond the most vital ways that an insurance plan can do for expats, the following tips should give give everyone in the global mobility industry some things to work on with their assignees: 

  1. Brief employees before they travel. While this is par for the course, employees must be made more aware of the risks associated with their intended location (for them and their families). Now more than ever it’s critical to evaluate the business value versus the employees’ risk of traveling. By providing the appropriate pre-departure and in-location support on security briefings, access to health care, emergency contacts and evacuation services, enables the employee to make an informed choice on whether they can make a success of their period of time abroad.
  2. Prepare to provide more destination services support. Global mobility managers handling the relocation of assignees in the host country should be well acquainted with immigration and border control guidance as well as advising on ways to look after the employee during their period of time abroad.
  3. Brief your employee on their health benefits. Whether it be access to testing, treatment or vaccinations, EAPs, virtual GPs, leave or return home policies, all have a bearing on protecting your employee and dependants during travel or an assignment. Ensure benefits are flexible and meet the businesses needs during a pandemic and support a focus on duty of care.