The coronavirus crisis has turned our concern for health into one of the priority issues in any setting, including the business environment. Now, more than ever, SMEs, particularly those with expatriate employees, need to take care of their workforces, look out for their physical and mental well-being and offer them the security of being able to access health care whenever they need it. Although there are many ways of supporting the labour force and contributing to the improvement of their health, health insurance, owing to its comprehensive focus, has become one of the company benefits most requested and valued by workers, above all those with international mobility.
And no wonder. Having this benefit brings numerous advantages. Firstly, it offers them the possibility of being cared for by a health care provider without having to go on a long waiting list, allows them the freedom to choose a specialist from the contracted insurer's global network of hospitals and clinics and enables them to have a wide range of state-of-the-art services and treatments. Secondly, it includes among its complementary services, telemedicine solutions and tools, now more vital than ever in providing access to remote medical health care providers, at any time, whenever necessary. Thirdly, they usually include expatriate employee assistance programmes. And, fourthly, because of the comprehensive support offered by insurance companies, both to plan members and international SMEs. And it’s because these insurers are taking on a role that goes far beyond that of a simple intermediary, providing the opportunity to take advantage of many other health care solutions focused on prevention and personalised, individual guidance.
In the short and medium term, this translates into healthier, happier and more committed employees. In other words: lower absenteeism and sickness presenteeism rates, a better working environment and customer service, a reduction in voluntary turnover and, finally, higher productivity, a key element in the internationalisation and success of any corporation. The economic benefit of all this is tangible and shows that purchasing health insurance for expatriates is an investment, not an expense, from which an extremely high ROI is obtained as a result of the major discrepancy between what is gained from these types of benefits and the minimum outlay involved in its purchase.
To understand this, it is enough to perform a simple analysis of how all these variables could lead to huge extra costs by not investing in employee health:
- Absenteeism. The absence of an employee without a valid reason entails indirect expenses such as a reduction in the quality of service, lower productivity, a bad atmosphere between colleagues or even the need to hire another person.
- Presenteeism. According to Cigna's ‘360º well-being Survey’1, 67% of employees worldwide declared that they had gone to work when they were ill in 2018. This, they acknowledged, meant a 21% reduction in their productivity on average.
- Demotivation. As the global data for August from Cigna's ‘COVID-19 Global Impact’2 show, 53% of people call for greater commitment to their well-being from their companies, and only 26% said they felt supported by the organisation where they worked. In the long run this could affect staff motivation and, ultimately, produce employees who show no interest in the company, work mechanically, are not proactive and, therefore, do not contribute to the growth of the business in the countries where they are posted.
- Turnover. In addition, this demotivation could result in employee resignations, which also involves a high cost for companies, particularly in the case of SMEs with workers in other countries - not just because of the loss of that resource, who was already familiar with the operation and contributed value, but also because of the financial outlay involved in recruitment (search time and staff dedicated to this task) and the placement and training of the new hire, which inevitably means a drop in productivity during this time too.
Translating all these costs into figures will clearly show the tangible value of investing in employee health via actions such as purchasing complete health care insurance. On top of this, of course, there will be an exponential growth in staff productivity as employees will feel healthy and supported by their organisation, since they can count on health care conditions similar to or better than those that they would enjoy in their country of origin, and this also entails a great economic benefit.
How is it possible to achieve an even higher ROI when purchasing health insurance for expatriates?
Beyond the terms of purchase and benefits included in the policy, if it is actually an excellent return on investment that is required when purchasing health insurance, what is most important is to analyse the best insurance company to which the health of employees can be entrusted in advance.
There are many insurers selling health insurance but very few that have a high level of experience, excellence and specialisation in health care and, particularly, in insurance and cover for expatriates. Therefore, the first step will be to research the market thoroughly and analyse the key aspects of each one of them. The main variables on which it is necessary to focus are as follows:
- Experience in the health sector. In matters of health, it is fundamental for the insurance company to have a high level of specialisation in the field and that health insurance is not one more on its list of products. This will result in a proposal comprising innovative, flexible and varied products and services: health care, pharmacy, psychology and well-being, dental, life and accident insurance and insurance for expatriates, etc.
- Expatriates as one of its areas of specialisation. Experience as an insurer for expatriates is key since this will ensure that it has an extensive medical network in those places with more international mobility and that it offers comprehensive advice and support to SMEs with regard to all the formalities upon arrival in the country and the complete compliance policy of each destination.
- Prestigious medical network. It is important to check that the global medical team proposed includes prestigious health care providers, who enjoy professional recognition. After all, the aim is for the employees to be in the hands of the best specialists.
- Quality of the health care centres. As important as the medical team is that the centres where the medical care will be received are distinguished by excellent facilities and medical equipment as well as a high level of care. It will also be an added value if it has its “own” network made up of strategic partnerships with local partners in order to improve the cost, accessibility and quality of care.
- Active role as a prevention agent. Embarking on a healthy life style is as important as having quality health care if not more. Therefore, it will be key for the insurer to perform an active role as a prevention agent, encouraging habits that help to attain and maintain good health and quality of life, via useful content and resources.
- Telemedicine service. Some insurers offer telemedicine services free of charge, a key added value bearing in mind the current situation. This benefit makes it possible to access numerous health care resources from any place at any time: medical consultations, monitoring of chronic disorders, health care content, health coaching, tracking of biomedical data, etc.
- Client relationship and personalisation. An excellent insurance company will be one that takes the time to listen proactively to the concerns and needs of their clients, in this case the SME and its employee plan members, so that the best solutions can be received, adapted to the situation of each of them and future health challenges. Here it will be interesting to check whether they have any type of specialist expatriate assistance programme, which is very useful in guaranteeing peace of mind and security for employee plan members.
- Speed and effectiveness of administrative processes. Given that authorisation is needed to access medical care, it will be fundamental to have a good telephone, online service and customer service facility that handles these types of processes and any other incident or need that might arise quickly - even more so if they are in a country that is not their own. Having a single health care contact to go to whenever necessary will bring greater security.
Along with these variables, it will be equally important to ensure that the health insurance company will become a genuine partner for the SME with employees abroad also, providing them with comprehensive assistance and guaranteeing them continuous support and monitoring. This prerequisite is especially momentous now when these types of companies need to maximise care for their employees and require specific resources, knowhow and advice to achieve this.
Health insurers such as Cigna are the best health care partner that a company with expatriate employees can have, being with their clients and plan members when they most need it and offering them all the services that they have available to guarantee their health and well-being, irrespective of where they may be. If you would like to know what it can offer you, this link will give you all the information you need. To get a quote, please click here.
1 Cigna. ‘360º well-being Survey 2018’. Publication date: July 2018. Link.
2 Cigna. ‘COVID-19 Global impact’: Publication date: October 2020. Link.