Taking care of international employees

This article is supplied by Aetna International. 


Staff who are relocated overseas have special requirements, such as access to healthcare for both existing and new conditions. David Healy explains how insurers are supporting this important group of employees.

Even with a supportive employer relocation package, moving abroad to work can sometimes be daunting for employees. Healthcare is always an important issue when working overseas and employees often look to their employers to provide appropriate international insurance cover. The protection provided by health insurance is broadly understood, but it’s often the lesser-known aspects of an insurer’s service that can make a real difference to employees taking international assignments. There are a number of areas that have seen improvements over recent years.

Pre-trip planning

Planning for an international assignment can be hectic and insurers can assist employees before they leave. Obtaining prescription medications or medical equipment, for example, when staff members have not been able to do this can save valuable time. When a medical condition already exists, insurers can also make contact with specialist medical providers to ensure the right facilities are available on arrival if they are needed. 

Smoothing the claims process

Technological advancements have provided an opportunity for insurers to improve their claims processes and provide the information that globally mobile expatriates need when medical care is required.

The ability to quickly find suitable medical facilities for treatment is fundamental to health insurance cover and insurers have been able to take advantage of mobile application technology to make this process easier. 

Apps have been developed that include address and contact information for each provider, maps to easily locate and calculate the distance to each facility, and calendar options so that appointments can be recorded conveniently.

The process behind submitting claims forms has also been transformed to allow busy expatriates to get on with their lives. Claimants can use the camera on their phone to take pictures of documents and send them to the insurer.

During and after treatment

International health insurance comes into its own when a claim is made. Claimants can often be under a great deal of stress, which can increase when trying to navigate an unfamiliar healthcare system. Dedicated teams of doctors, nurses and other clinicians have been established by some insurers to provide crucial support when it is needed most. Teams will have practical experience in a broad range of medical specialties and be skilled in their ability to listen and provide empathetic support.

Patients are contacted proactively, giving them additional expert support when recovering from illness or to help them better manage a chronic disease. For example, if a member has been hospitalised, some insurers will make contact after discharge to help them better understand their health condition and their recommended treatment plan.

These teams frequently also have the ability to offer health coaching and wellness advice, which can be particularly helpful to those with a chronic condition. Insurers have learned that instead of simply recommending more exercise or better eating habits, engaging the patient in a discussion about what behavioural changes they may be willing to make can often bring better outcomes.

The ability to access the right treatment at the right time will always be central to any international insurance programme. Additional support to help a staff member through trying circumstances, or simply to save them time while on the go and ensure they make the right decisions for their medical care, can prove invaluable. 

Insurers are continually looking at ways in which they can help to safeguard the health of expatriate employees around the world.

David Healy is general manager for Europe at Aetna International