What Global Mobility Pros Need to Learn About Post-pandemic Health Insurance for Expats

The COVID-19 pandemic has made healthcare even more of a priority for organizations and their international workers. Global mobility professionals think having a solid international insurance for assignees will take priority, resulting in more preventive rather than reactionary measures. The idea is to have not just any type of insurance, but the kind of insurance that assignees are used to having in their home country, if better; if not, employers aim to surpass it.

The most commonly offered support is general health check-ups (59%), followed by self-assessment tools for assignees to track their own health and well-being (55%). This was according to a 2020 study done by AXA Healthcare (World of Work 2021), one of the largest global health insurance companies.

A need to offer a good healthcare insurance program is crucial to alleviate worries and give both organizations and assignees and their respective some peace of mind. For those locked down, virtual support is offered by 60% of organizations to their international assignees. Being able to speak to a doctor whenever you want, purely through mobile or laptop, is a good practice.

Are employers ready to offer a post-pandemic type of international health insurance? The cost of international assignments has increased significantly since 2017. On top of that, healthcare in the United States is highly regulated. 

Holistic health insurance package

To get a holistic health insurance package in the US, it is advised that one uses more than one provider for healthcare and insurance. Some countries offer it at a provincial level like Canada, but the US offers it a federal level.

Regional differences in offering a global approach to a health insurance program is a challenge. Global mobility professionals will need to communicate with assignees about how to meet their expectations and needs in the new normal.

An international worker who is away from loved ones during an illness is hard enough as it is, having to navigate the complexities of a foreign medical system can be even more daunting. But it’s important to start somewhere. For instance, 86% agree there should be solid healthcare support in response to a crisis or event, while still aspiring for a more preventive approach. 

Top 3 challenges for HR

The top three challenges that HR decision makers must face in developing healthcare packages for staff going on and international assignment, based on AXA’s study:

  • 51% agree on developing packages that are consistent across different employee types and geographies
  • 44% think there must be way of meeting demands for a wider range of healthcare and well-being services
  • 42% are trying to deliver an attractive/competitive package for employees within budget constraints

Other concerns included having to manage contracts with multiple employee benefit providers (39%); developing packages that are compliant and meet regulations in each of the markets it operates in (38%);  understanding the needs of what international assignees want as part of their package (38%) and managing the cost of providing comprehensive packages (37%).

So far, 82% of international assignees have reported they are largely supported by their employers. Many organizations see the benefits of taking care of their assignees. Assignments are said to run smoothly, assignees are more likely to feel happy and comfortable in their work, and it encourages employee loyalty. Also, assignments are said to be less likely to go wrong and terminate early.

For organizations looking into international health insurance companies other than AXA, here’s a few to look into: Aetna, Allianz Worldwide, Cigna, Foyer Group and many more. 

Asking the right questions is key, the most essential ones being the coverage limit of an insurance; the deductible; the exclusions; the coverage area; the PPO network, to name just a few. 

Both global mobility managers and international assignees will need to dig deep into the minutiae of international health plans. There are many variables to consider when looking at various health packages, including the following: 

  • Hospitalization and the intensive care unit
  • Surgery and anaesthesia
  • Lab tests and X-rays.
  • Physician visits
  • Urgent care and emergency room visits
  • Prescription medication

For cost, it varies from $150 to over $1,000 a month, depending on the following: age; 

amount of coverage; how many people are included in the policy; the deductible; area of coverage; method of payment and medical history.

When inquiring for health insurance, ask what changed from their health insurance plans before and after the pandemic. (Dennis Clemente)