By: Tamara Molino | CRP, GMS

November 17, 2014

An increasing number of assignees are extending their stays abroad, which may require employers to consider more permanent relocation benefits for their expat mobile workforce. For instance, employees moving internationally for longer periods of time may likely have a greater need for expatriate health insurance.

Talent living and working abroad should have access to quality health care; but for a wide-variety of reasons, insurance may not be the same in the host country as it is in the United States. Keeping that in mind, here are three things assignees and their employers should know about expat health insurance:

One-quarter of uninsured respondents cited good health as the primary reason for a lack of coverage. One-quarter of uninsured respondents cited good health as the primary reason for a lack of coverage.

  1. Uninsured individuals face massive health bills: Relocate Magazine cited a recent online survey conducted by health insurance provider Now Health International that found one-quarter of expats fail to take out international health insurance when they move abroad. The 25 percent of uninsured respondents cited good health as the primary reason for a lack of coverage. Yet, as medical care costs in popular expat areas continue to grow, the uninsured will face large bills if their optimism proves to be incorrect.
  2. Some countries are better providers than others: Access to medical resources and the level of industrialization are two key reasons why some nations have better expat healthcare options than others. Taiwan is one of the highest rated countries for both healthcare affordability and quality. In fact, in its most recent Expat Explorer survey, HSBC found that nearly 70 percent of assignees in Taiwan spent less on health care while on assignment than in their home country. While assignee satisfaction with Taiwanese healthcare affordability and quality is 3 times the global average, inexpensive health care options can also be found in the U.K., Thailand, Japan and Saudi Arabia. The U.S., Ireland, Brazil and New Zealand are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
  3. Employers want to provide it, but they can’t always afford it: A study conducted by Expacare found 23 percent of employers want to provide health insurance for talent abroad but don’t have room in their budgets. However, budget restricted employers can still help their assignees by providing information and resources covering the host location’s healthcare system and available expatriate insurance options. Although some countries provide universal health care solutions, dependence on government programs can be risky. In fact, Twelve percent of respondents in the Now Health International study thought they would be taken care of by their host country’s health care system. However, a growing number of nations are beginning to pass legislation that limits expat coverage to accident and emergency incidents only; one of many reasons that highlight the need for quality assignee education on expatriate healthcare.
  4. There are sources to learn about expat health insurance: VisaGuide.World has developed a useful resource that explores the topic of health insurance for expats, including its importance and how to purchase an expat health insurance plan.

Brought to you by Global Mobility Solutions, a trusted partner in global talent management.

Vice President, Global Services Tammy is responsible for GMS’ regional operations teams in North and Latin America, EMEA, and APAC. Tammy provides over 14 years of leadership experience in the areas of international assignment management, global network management, global consulting and business development. Her experience in global mobility includes new client implementations, policy and compliance development, global compensation and billing, vendor management, case management, and real estate home sale/purchase programs. Tammy travels extensively and studied abroad in Switzerland, Chile, Peru, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

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