18 May 2021

Can my local broker work internationally?

Can my local broker work internationally? First things first, you need to ask them. Human Resource Departments all over the country are faced with an ever-expanding footprint of locations. All of these locations have employees that need benefits. Whether that means business travel, international residence, or benefits for local nationals. More and more employers are growing outside of the United States. The ability to offer competitive benefits for those employees is complicated and challenging, but very important.

International coverage can vary greatly from one country to another. The legal requirements an employer must recognize leave any company exposed. Before you have an employee call you with a medical emergency from a foreign country, it’s important to know what benefits you offer. This is why it is so crucial to have a broker that is knowledgeable in this space.

can my local broker work internationally

Building a global benefits strategy

The question is, can my local broker help me with employees that are international or, do I have to contract with someone else? Emerging multinational businesses face many challenges as they look to expand, especially where new global initiatives see a number of overseas offices established in a short space of time. The greatest risk for any business is where infrastructure is in its infancy (such as a local HR presence). This opens up an important discussion regarding building and managing an effective global benefits strategy. Even when infrastructure has been established, control and accountability are important.

Can my local broker work internationally

There are different ways an employer can go about managing their international space.  The first thing you should do is ask your local broker about their international strength and experience. Have they worked internationally before and how well do they know that space? Second, ask what resources they offer in the international space. Lastly, you can ask your broker if they do not have experience in this area to refer you to a third party that does.

Benefit carriers such as United Healthcare, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Aetna have some international plans they can offer. They also have representatives that have the experience to address an employer’s needs. There are also brokers who may have international expertise in-house.  Alternatively, some brokers may outsource international needs to a third party such as  BUCK, BAS (Benefits Administrative Services – London), etc. as part of a partnership.

Different coverages internationally

The Business Traveler

Employers need a few different levels of coverage in this space. First, the international traveler. Employers have those in the company that travel for business outside the country and they need to have coverage. There are international travel plans that take care of that employee with their healthcare needs. It should have an international network of contracted physicians and hospitals. These plans are often provided by the number of weeks in the year that employee travels foreign and are paid in annual payments.

Employees living internationally

Employers may have employees who live internationally for a period of months up to a year and out to a max of three years that may need what is called Ex pat coverage.  These policies are put in place to protect that employee and applicable family members while in that country and until they come back to the US.  Traditionally employers pay for these policies as a form of taking care of that employee while they are living outside the US on assignment.

Local nationals

There are in-country plans that are offered to local nationals who come from that country of domicile and claim that nationality and are citizens of that country.  These plans vary greatly in complexity and differ from one country to another so you must understand what insurance is required by that individual country and what is mandated.  What benefits are expected to be provided by the employer and what an employer could be penalized by that foreign country if not in compliance with their laws.

What to consider

The Society of Human Resource Management suggests employers focus on four things:

  • Medical treatment. Insurers will have networks of providers available along with referral and translation services for the employee.
  • Payment. To expedite treatment, insurance programs can guarantee direct payment to foreign medical providers, with the employer reimbursing the insurer. There’s also insurance that indemnifies the employer for medical expenses, often for a reasonable cost.
  • Transport. If the employee must be transported to a different country for treatment, the insurer should be able to make those arrangements. Make sure the insurer is providing sufficient coverage for these costs, as medical transportation can be expensive.
  • Family members. Insurance can cover the immediate family members who accompany a worker traveling abroad.

Protect your international employees with coverage

So in light of the question, can my local broker work internationally? Keep this article in mind. We find all too often corporations are not able to speak confidently to the state of the employee benefits programs in each of their overseas offices. True to the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know”, businesses may be exposed to risks that they don’t fully understand. This is due to a lack of appreciation for the complexity of overseas markets and the employee benefits that are typical, or even required in the region in question. If you have international employees, be sure to ask your broker how they can protect them.

For more information on this topic, you can contact Diversified Insurance Group. You can contact them here.