International Health Insurance can protect your employees while they are abroad and provide them and their family with vital healthcare and support paid for by an insurer while they’re working for your organisation overseas.
This may be as expatriate workers who are living and working abroad (with or without their family, to whom coverage is also typically extended), or for employees who simply need to travel a great deal for their jobs.
You don’t necessarily have to buy separate International Health Insurance for your employees. Many providers of domestic, UK-focused schemes offer a travel option you can bolt on to the ‘core’ UK cover for certain employees if required.
International Health Insurance for employees provides cover for the cost of medical expenses incurred while abroad. This could be anything from emergency treatment to routine GP appointments (or overseas equivalents), as well as dental checkups and maternity care.
In this way, International Health Insurance tends to be more comprehensive than its domestic, UK-only counterpart.
This is because Health Insurance in the UK tends to work as a supplement to the NHS rather than replacing it, leaving emergency care, routine maternity appointments, chronic conditions and typically GP appointments, as well as other treatment, to be undertaken by the NHS.
While an individual is abroad they don’t have the NHS to rely on, and so must typically pay for access to all medical treatment depending on where they are and the health system in their host country. That’s where Worldwide Medical Insurance comes in.
As such, International Health Insurance for businesses tends to cover a far wider array of treatments, conditions, appointments and scenarios than would be the case for a domestic UK policy.
If your employees live abroad for work or simply spend a great deal of time travelling, then it’s likely you’ll need to provide them with some element of Health Insurance overseas to cover their travels. This is in case they fall sick while abroad.
This is because the health systems in other countries aren’t like the NHS, where treatment is free at the point of use. In many countries you may have to live in the country for a certain period of time to qualify for state-backed healthcare or commit to paying into the system for a set time before you get access to it.
Of course, that’s if access to state healthcare is available at all — in many common locations for expat Brits, such as the US, there’s little to no state-funded healthcare and almost everything medically must be taken care of privately.
In some ways yes, Travel Insurance is similar to International Health Insurance for employees.
However, there are some major differences that mark important distinctions between the two types of cover and make Travel Insurance fairly unsuitable for those living abroad or even those merely travelling overseas if they have particular medical needs.
Travel Insurance largely focuses on providing treatment after accidents and emergencies while overseas. What such policies rarely cover include instances of pre-existing conditions, routine medical care (e.g. checkups) or maternity cover.
This could lead to a situation where an employee abroad needs medical assistance as a result of a flareup of a pre-existing condition but finds they’re unable to claim under a standard Travel Insurance policy. (Note that there are specialist insurance policies which will agree to cover pre-existing medical conditions, but most providers will automatically exclude a pre-existing condition from Travel Insurance coverage.)
Travel Insurance is also rarely designed to cover someone living abroad — the longest you can usually be abroad per trip before needing to return to the UK is 30 days for most Travel Insurance policies.
However, there are some benefits to Travel Insurance that International Health Insurance for employees lacks. For instance, Travel Insurance will usually cover emergency evacuation and repatriation should the individual become catastrophically ill and require a medical evacuation from their host country.
While Group International Health Insurance may cover this in some instances, this is usually only if the treatment the employee needs is not available locally. This could mean a sick employee is stuck abroad in hospital away from friends and family for a considerable length of time because the treatment they require is available in that country.
Employers that want to give their travelling employees comprehensive cover may want to consider giving them Travel Insurance as well to plug the gaps that worldwide healthcare coverage can’t.
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry
As mentioned, the cost of healthcare abroad varies depending on the country you’re in and the medical care you require.
For instance, a night in hospital in Italy could cost you £501, although that’s nothing compared to Canada, where a night in hospital may cost as much as £2,193! Meanwhile, even within the EU costs can vary wildly. Fixing a broken ankle in Germany would cost £4,747, while in Italy the same procedure would cost £2,926.1
Of course, all healthcare costs globally pale in comparison to the USA, where treatment is astronomically expensive.
A heart attack requiring a heart bypass could set you back £115,000, while even something as simple as bout of food poisoning could cost you £5,000 if medical intervention is required.2
As you can see, the costs of healthcare abroad can be huge, making International Health Insurance for employees an important consideration if they’re going to be living or working overseas.
The cost of International Health Insurance varies depending on a number of factors.
Given the above, the biggest variation in cost will be where the employee is based (if living abroad) or where they travel to most frequently. If there’s an intention to reside or travel a great deal in North America, the cost of International Health Insurance will be far higher than within Europe due to the highest cost of care in the US and Canada.
In fact, Health Insurance is typically split into ‘tiers’. Starting at the cheapest, these are generally:
Thereafter, there are various other points to consider when it comes to the cost of cover, such as the individual themselves. This includes their age and previous medical history.
Given the huge number of variations when it comes to securing International Health Insurance for your employees, including the variation in premiums, we recommend seeking advice before going forward to ensure the policy you choose is the most appropriate for your circumstances.
Employee Benefits Consultant at Drewberry
For employers, premiums for International Health Insurance are typically paid from pre-tax earnings, meaning there are potential savings in corporation tax on the premiums.
Employees, however, will find that Health Insurance is a P11d benefit or a taxable benefit in kind. This refers to a benefit your employees receive that’s not counted as part of their salary but is nonetheless has a cash value and so HMRC will levy tax against it.
As such, employees see their annual income tax allowance reduced by the same amount of the premiums paid on their behalf, meaning they can earn less before becoming subject to tax.
HMRC views company paid Health Insurance as part of employees’ remuneration, which means companies usually have to pay employer’s National Insurance on the premiums, also.
Of course, all this assumes that the employee in question hasn’t moved abroad permanently and is being taxed in their home country. If they are being taxed abroad, the tax rules will be different and it’s best to seek advice from a specialist in international tax.
Head of Employee Benefits at Drewberry
Our experts are available to help you find the best International Health Insurance protection for your employees that will give both employees and employers the best possible benefits and rewards.
To learn more about worldwide health cover for employees and compare quotes from across the UK insurance market, get in touch with our experts on 02074425880.
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