A successful expat insurance coverage experience requires thoughtful planning, retaining local benefit expertise, and following up with the employee. Follow these tips, provided by Kelly Soto, Alliant First Vice President and expat benefit expert, to help ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.
Know how benefits will fit the whole family, not just the employee – A common mistake that leads to assignment failure is the benefits did not take into account the needs of the whole family. Take the time to ensure the coverage, especially the health plan, will work for every family member. This includes understanding which prescriptions, the mental health status and any physical limitations any family member may have.
Allow enough time for visa preparation – In some countries getting paperwork done in 3-5 business days is common practice. In many others, it is not. That being said, delays in receiving visas is not uncommon. Do your homework regarding visas and other compliance requirements you need to meet. Understanding the steps you need to take, and their expected timing, will help you avoid unpleasant surprises for everyone involved.
Support employees through the duration of assignment—Executing on expat assignments is not a one-and-done project. It’s ongoing. Think of it as planning for a marriage rather than planning a wedding, and consider what the employee and family may need on an ongoing basis. Check in with the employee after the first two weeks of the assignment, then in another month or so. This lets you ensure benefits are working properly or if any adjustments need to be made or other support offered. Common check in topics include making sure the family has their health plan cards, have they found a local doctor, and do they have access to any online resources they’ll need to use?
AVOID COMMON EXPAT ASSIGNMENT SURPRISES
Secure comprehensive, locally appropriate, health insurance – What comprehensive medical insurance covers in some countries is often not equivalent to what comprehensive medical covers in another. For example, in the U.S., many out-patient services and other office visits are typically included in coverage, but in India, they are not. This is why having a trusted adviser with local expertise, like an Asinta Partner for example, is so important. They can go through all these details with a fine-tooth comb for you, and explain them in a way that is contextually relevant to you.
Know the other costs – Medical is only a small portion of the total costs of an assignment. You need to consider relocation costs, housing, and other reimbursements or allowances. Taxation is another aspect that needs to be considered because benefits can be seen as income in some countries and be taxed, at a very high rate in some cases, as such.
Work to ease the stress of the move – Culture shock and family stress translate into employee unhappiness and greatly effect productivity and job success. To ease the pressure for an expatriate employee and his or her family while on assignment, it is important to make sure they have resources available to them to attain a work life balance in their new environment. This includes making sure the employee’s workload is manageable. It also means employers need to help newly assigned employees become well aware of cultural and political norms in their host country, and provide them with suggestions for outside opportunities— things like volunteering, popular local activities, and employment resources for an accompanying spouse (if desired or relevant).