Got it covered? Navigating the complexities of international emergency medical policies
Most U.S. employers assume that when sending employees overseas for work, they will be covered for international emergency medical under a domestic (U.S.) plan. For example, if the U.S. employee were to have a slip and fall accident while in Germany and needed to go to the hospital or a doctor for treatment, the U.S. plan would cover the treatment. But what many employes may not realize is that under these policies, they are required to pay the expenses out of pocket first, and then get reimbursed by the U.S. carrier after submitting a claim along with verification of payment. Fortunately, there are international travel medical policies that are primary (meaning they pay first) that relieves employees of this problem.
U.S. employers may also fail to realize that when their international (non-U.S.) employees leave their home country (whether to come to the U.S. or go elsewhere in the world) they do not automatically have emergency medical coverage under a domestic plan from their home country. So for example, when your German employee comes to the U.S. on a business trip, he or she has no medical coverage while in the states unless a specific policy was purchased for that purpose. It can be confusing at times because, if for example, that same German person went to France, he or she would be covered for needed medical services since E.U. countries have treaties with one another that covers this situation. The U.S. does not have these treaties and therefore, when E.U. employees come to the U.S., they do not have automatic medical coverage while here.
To potentially make matters worse, some countries, like Germany, legally require travel medical insurance for employees traveling out of country on business. If there is no policy in place you may be violating German labor law with all its related consequences. Employers with international travelers need to be aware of what medical coverage’s exist for their employees when traveling and what needs to be provided under the local country law. An international consultant can help assure that U.S. employers are in compliance globally with required or desired medical coverage for their traveling employees.
About the Author
James Kinney JD, LLM is a Senior Vice President at WGA, and leads the WGA Global Practice for Employee Benefits, overseeing the leadership of the firm’s international benefits strategy, including the placement of expatriate and local national programs.