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Understanding International Employee Benefits to Protect Your Globally Mobile Workforce

Jun 10, 2020 Decorative image of airport travelers

As the global economy makes the world a smaller place, U.S. companies more frequently are sending American employees around the world to work with colleagues, clients and business partners. The experience gained can enrich employees and employers alike.

One assumption that companies new to international business may make is that employee benefits—especially health-related benefits—provided in the U.S. protect employees overseas and are paid for using the processes common in the States.

In general, this is not the case. If healthcare benefits are not fully understood and addressed before the employee leaves the country and that employee experiences a medical issue, the results can range from unpleasant to catastrophic.

Your Carrier Says Your Employees Are Covered … But How?
When you talk with your healthcare insurance provider, it’s not enough to ask whether your employees are covered if they visit a foreign country. Even if the answer is “yes,” you need to understand what that means. Here are just some of the questions to ask:

Obtaining Help

  • If my employee becomes ill, do you have a trusted network of qualified English-speaking doctors and high-quality-care hospitals that you will recommend?
  • How and when can the employee contact you for assistance? How long will it take you to respond?
  • Will you help the employee make an appointment, if necessary?
  • How long will the employee likely wait to see a qualified medical professional if the situation isn’t an emergency?
  • Will preauthorization be required?

Treatment and Payment

  • Will the employee need to pay for all expenses at the time of service with cash or a credit card?
  • Will care be treated as “in network” and be billed later at negotiated prices? Will there be upfront co-pays, deductibles or limits?
  • Will prescriptions be covered? How will they be obtained? To what extent will they be covered? Will there be any exclusions?
  • Will treatment for pre-existing conditions be covered?
  • Will treatment for injuries related to natural disasters, acts of terrorism or war, or sports and other physical activities be covered?
  • Will treatment for maternity-related emergencies be covered?
  • Will emergency care be covered even if the emergency happens while the employee is on a personal outing or sightseeing excursion?

Medical Transportation

  • If transportation (including helicopter or plane) is needed for the employee to obtain care, will that be covered? To what extent?
  • In case of a health crisis, will the insurance pay to fly a spouse or other close relative to be with the employee?
  • If an employee must be flown back to the States for treatment or recovery, will that be covered? To what extent?
  • If the employee dies while visiting a foreign country, will the insurance cover the cost to fly the body home?

Other benefits and requirements (e.g., pay, retirement contributions, taxes, housing compensation, work hours and holidays) can be equally as complicated and may depend on the type of employee and assignment (e.g., expatriate or short-term traveler). Each country has its own regulations and customs that employers must understand. There are many variations, and awareness and understanding are key.

Execute Your International Employee Benefits Strategy with Confidence
If you don’t have in-house international employee benefits expertise, rest assured: you aren’t alone. That’s why many companies partner with Hylant.

We have dedicated resources with capabilities to provide services supporting U.S. expatriates, third-country nationals, international travelers and local nationals. We offer services to assist employers who are in the initial stages of global expansion as well as those who are expanding existing benefits offerings.

Contact your Hylant service team member or local Hylant office if you would like help creating and executing a sound benefits strategy that supports your employees as they travel the globe on your behalf.

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.