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Proper Medical Insurance for the International Business Traveler

In 2017, there will be a growing need to provide adequate medical insurance for U.S. employees who travel overseas on short term assignments lasting less than 90 days. This need is a result of the following trends:

  • In a recent survey we conducted with our global network partners, 72% of multinational firms plan to expand overseas operations. Looking at American firms, over 80% plan expansion internationally.
  • Expatriates on assignment for more than two years costs 2-3 times more than what is spent for the same employee in the U.S.
  • Increased use of partners and strategic alliances.
  • In today’s world, technology can have a huge impact on savings and efficiency with video conferencing, but there is a strong trend to conduct business face to face.
  • The average global business traveler will take 4.5 trips a year on average lasting 16 days. The average cost per trip, including airfare is over $4,000.

All these trends point to more frequent travel and therefore more risk that an employee will need medical treatment if they become ill or injured. To meet this growing need, two strategies are being taken: U.S. Group Contract-Overseas Emergency Medical and Global Business Traveler Accident (BTA) with a medical rider.

U.S. Group Contract-Overseas Emergency Medical

Most domestic group medical policies issued by major American carriers include a provision for "Overseas Emergency Medical Care."  This provides reimbursement of medical claims incurred overseas for treatment on an emergency basis for a new injury or illness. Sometimes, there are a maximum benefit and if applicable, treated as out of network.

Global Business Travel Accident (BTA) with a Medical Rider

This is a group accident policy with a rider that covers medical treatment to insure American employees traveling on company business outside of the country. It is designed to cover trips from one day to 181 days—anything longer requires a different approach. These plans provide 24 hour global access to a an English speaking (or any primary speaking language needed) support. The support will direct the employee to appropriate facility to get the treatment needed and usually are part of a global network. In most cases, the employee has little out of pocket of expense as the insurance company has or can arrange for direct claims payment.

Global BTA plans cover a variety of other important benefits such as help with lost passports or prescription medications, legal help, and if needed, repatriation. Cover for up to seven days of personal travel is often included.

Which is Preferred?

As a true global broker, we urge our clients to look at a Global BTA plan to provide the needed services and insurance for your employees that travel overseas on company business. The standard approach of thinking the domestic plan’s emergency provisions are sufficient is wrong. The claims and medical staff at the carrier rarely have experience in processing claims from overseas.  The claim process can be difficult, convoluted and in the end result in the employee and/or the employer losing money.

It is important to point out  the support services provided in a Global BTA plan. The goal is to ease the stress on the employee by giving pre-departure country overview of practical information (ATM access, dealing with taxi cabs, etc.) The real value of these plans is when there is a need and the employee can easily get assistance, including proper communication for treatment.

Other support services included with a Global BTA plan:

  • Evacuation, as needed to a facility to best provide care
  • Travel assistance, Translations, and travel for the family to go the country the insured is in to assist with the employees return trip home

The main policy is normally an accident plan and therefore a flat benefit is included averaging $100,000.

Cost is based on estimated total number of travel days for the entire group of traveling employees in a year. 10 employees that are global representatives travel 10 days for each of 5 trips they make. Total travel days for this company is 500.  Annual premium is estimated at $4,000.

Global BTA plans provide for real added value benefits at a very nominal cost. In the end they provide for less worry and increased confidence for both the employer and employee.

 

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