The heathcare needs of a mobile employee need to be met by comprehensive medical insurance
As a business expands across the world, the distribution of the company's workforce becomes even more widespread as the employees are asked to live and work further afield, often in remote parts of the world. The healthcare needs of the mobile employee will differ depending on where they are posted. For example, comprehensive medical insurance is a mandatory requirement for entry to many Middle Eastern countries, whereas staff based in Western Europe may only need to cover the essentials such as in-patient care. Wherever an employee is based, the employer needs to know that their healthcare needs will be met by a reputable and experienced insurer who will take care of them.
International private medical insurance (PMI) is often regarded as an emotive insurance ' employers are keen not to make a mistake in their choice of provider. If an employee requires medical treatment overseas and it is found that the policy does not provide adequate cover, the patient will be put through unnecessary stress at a time when they need to feel supported and looked after.
It is also important for a small company to know that their member of staff will receive high quality treatment quickly in order for them to return to work at the earliest convenience. Small companies may often only have one key person in a particular country. It is imperative the company has chosen a high quality insurer if that person becomes ill. Employers also need a straightforward administration process for costs to be kept low.
The benefits within a corporate private medical insurance scheme rely on what the customer actually requires. Most large companies are now able to 'cherry pick' the options which make up their corporate scheme. However, there are some essentials which every PMI scheme should include: immediate emergency care, hospital and in-patient care, referral to a specialist or hospital if necessary, therapist treatment and dental treatment.
In addition, most high quality insurers will also offer some form of assistance cover such as an evacuation or repatriation option, maternity cover, cover for chronic conditions, out-patient care, health checks and family doctor and prescription fees.
The major players in the market are always looking at new ways to enhance benefits to the customer. Recent inclusions for the best corporate schemes are maternity cover, routine dental treatment and free health screenings. The latest advance in corporate international PMI schemes is the inclusion of cover for chronic conditions.
What the intermediary needs to consider
There are a number of variables to take into consideration as an intermediary when helping a company set up an international health care scheme for its staff. Length of stay for employees in any one country can range from a couple of days to three years. Local medical facilities may be underdeveloped, complex and changing rapidly. There are often language problems and communication links can be weak. Access to medical facilities may be complicated and limited in terms of provision of speciality services and technology. Without access to specialist treatment, certain medical conditions can develop and long and unsophisticated treatment periods can prove both dangerous and costly.
The company may also have various questions as to why international PMI is so necessary. The highest priority for any company is keeping costs low. Therefore, an intermediary is likely to get asked about local insurance options or even travel policies. Firstly, local policies are not always cheaper ' certainly not in most European countries or indeed the USA where medical insurance costs are very high. Also local insurance companies are 'localised' and not international so the range of their services is limited. Continuity of cover is also an important factor. Employees moving from one country to another and buying local cover would be re-underwritten by each separate insurer. A good international PMI scheme will also give you the option for global emergency evacuation, taking the employee to the nearest appropriate medical facility.
The most important obstacle against using travel policies instead of international medical cover is that they do not cover elective medical treatment. Travel insurance schemes are not tailored to meet the needs of the resident expatriate or mobile employee. They are unlikely to have an accredited international hospital network and direct settlement in many cases will not exist. In addition, time restrictions on travel schemes placing a maximum period on the amount of time that can be spent overseas, for example six weeks, will mean the employee will not be covered.
The needs of the intermediary
In order to make sure you are offering corporate clients the best schemes from the most trustworthy health and care companies in the market, make sure that you go through the checklist below:
1. Investigate the financial strength of the provider ' paying claims is what it is all about. Be clear about the other services that the provider offers. For example:
2. Is the provider really available to the customer 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, or do they farm the calls out to someone else?
3. Does it have a network of hospitals?
4. What are the service levels ' how quickly are claims paid?
5. The policy must include 100 per cent reimbursement of in-patient treatment. Otherwise, the employee could receive some very expensive bills if there is a shortfall on the claim.
6. Reassurance the international medical insurer has a track record in organising evacuation should an injury or medical condition become serious.
7. Can patients have elective treatment in their home country? Do insurers have local arrangements?
8. Whether direct settlement arrangements have been organised with both medical providers and clinical consultants around the world.
9. Whether claims can be paid in different currencies
10. That the insurer provides policies that can be transported to wherever the customer goes.
Developments in the company market have induced insurers to achieve greater levels of responsiveness and customer service. To help customers and brokers worldwide gain instant access to information, services and help, there is greater use of the internet. Innovations in managed care to reduce healthcare costs worldwide, networks of partner medical providers, tailored schemes with ancillary benefits and company-specific costs controls demonstrate the continuing growth in sophistication in the corporate PMI marketplace.
High quality international insurers recognise the importance of the role of the broker. Some international health insurance companies are now offering specialist services to brokers and intermediaries in order to increase relations between the two parties.
Some insurers now have dedicated broker and intermediary sales and support teams. Dedicated websites have also been created by the top quality international insurers, proving that the role of the broker is truly valued and an extremely important business channel. This culminates in better customer service and satisfaction.
Consultation closes 28 January
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