Sponsor’s comment: The importance of compliance around healthcare for expatriate staff

CIGNAMark Coleman, UK sales director at Cigna International Expatriate Benefits, explains the importance of compliance around healthcare for expatriate staff

As far as an organisation’s expatriate population is concerned, employers would have to be living under a rock to avoid the real and growing importance of legal and regulatory requirements associated with global healthcare.

However, far from being like the fairy tale The Emperor’s new clothes, there is an increasing awareness that compliance cannot, and should not, be ignored. With human resource departments becoming increasingly seen as the omnipotent cure-all, for example, as co-ordinators of international assignment and repatriation; experts on cultural differences and relocation; specialists in compensation packages and tax implications; and last, but certainly not least, gatekeepers of spiralling healthcare costs, it is little wonder that the complex, ever-fluid global regulatory environment is yet another minefield for which HR could use expert knowledge and assistance.

For example, in Australia, new legislation that came into effect on 14 September 2009 from the country’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship, states that all non-Australian citizens coming from countries that do not have reciprocal healthcare agreements in place with Australia (that require a 457 Business Long Stay Visa) must provide a new proof of insurance.

This affects all countries outside of Finland, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the UK. This has recently been extended to include non-Australian citizens who need access to the Australian Medicare system, and Australian citizens who are repatriating back to Australia whose Medicare status has expired.

Simply put, an organisation’s expatriate employees who need a 457 Business Long Stay Visa must have a minimum standard of health insurance for themselves and their dependents at the time they apply for the visa and, importantly, must submit a letter of certification to show they meet the health insurance requirement.

This is where Cigna International Expatriate Benefits can play a vital and valuable role. As well as having experience and knowledge in this arena, we can specifically help employers and facilitate this process in its entirety. The need to adapt and develop an international healthcare plan, ensure it is flexible, fit for purpose and immediately intuitive to change, cannot be overestimated.

We offer a compliant healthcare plan through CignaLinks Australia, which is available to employers that have expatriates working and/or living in Australia, as well as to Australian citizens who are working abroad. CignaLinks allows expatriates and their covered dependents to receive care in Australia through our relationship with Grand United (GU).

We co-ordinate with Australia’s national sponsored health plan (Medicare) through this relationship with GU to meet these new requirements. Having access to the programme worldwide not only tackles local legal and regulatory issues, but also provides seamless, quality healthcare in the host country alongside potential cost savings to both employers and employees.

One thing is certain. Far from being a buzzword, compliance is becoming an increasingly intrinsic component of a viable and robust global healthcare strategy. And having access to expertise, service excellence, partnerships and an innovative approach is no longer a luxury ticket item; it is a necessity.

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To find out more, please visit: www.cignaenvoy.com

Read more articles from: Special report 2010: international reward