Insuring Employees Traveling Abroad

This post first appeared on Risk Management Magazine. Read the original article.

Consider the
following scenario: A U.S. salesperson attended an annual sales meeting in
Italy. She spent the morning at business meetings and then went on a hiking
excursion at her own leisure. While hiking, she fell and broke her leg. Since
the injury did not occur in the course and scope of her work, it was
questionable whether her injury would trigger coverage under an endorsed
workers compensation policy. Even if it was covered, the loss could have been
subject to a high deductible for the employer and other potential limitations.
However, if the company had an international package policy in place—including
business travel coverage with a 24-hour coverage endorsement and no
deductible—many of these concerns could have been alleviated, allowing the employee
to receive the necessary medical care and providing much-needed peace of mind.

Maintaining effective international insurance coverage is
not just good business practice, it also demonstrates to employees that the
company is taking a proactive approach to their health and safety. But the best
time to think about the details of your company’s international insurance
coverage is not the hours and days immediately after an employee suffers an
injury abroad. Rather, it pays to determine in advance the most effective way
to mitigate the risks and potential claim costs that can arise from
international employee travel.

The first step of any proactive risk management process
should start with understanding the exposures and the options that employers
have when building a robust international insurance program. It also involves
communicating the important coverage details to employees and ensuring that
they know what to do in the event of a claim, both when abroad and at home. In
addition, it is critical to have trusted partners in place to ensure you have
the right coverage and are able to provide ongoing support for proper
communication tools and claims resources.

The following are three important considerations for putting
together an effective international coverage program:

1. Understand International Insurance Coverage Options

As with any type of coverage, there are important policies
and endorsements to existing policies that are designed to respond to employee
injuries or claims abroad. One of those is the foreign voluntary compensation
endorsement added to a U.S. workers compensation policy or an international
package policy. This endorsement can provide coverage for employees traveling
abroad on company business. It typically covers medical costs and lost wage
benefits, as well as costly repatriation expenses in the event an injured
worker needs a medical evacuation back to the United States. However, this
coverage can be fairly limited. As with traditional workers compensation
coverage, the endorsement may be subject to a policy’s high deductible and,
more importantly, employees may not be covered when they are not engaged in
work activities at the time of the incident. For example, an employee who
slipped in his hotel lobby or was in a car accident may not be covered under
the workers compensation policy if it is deemed not to be in the course and
scope of employment.

Business travel accident policies provide out-of-country
travel benefits and can apply the entire time that employees travel abroad. The
policy can be written to also include coverage during personal travel by
executives. It is important to understand the specific policy language. A
knowledgeable broker can help build the policy and ensure endorsements, such as
24-hour coverage, are addressed.

An international package policy involves combining multiple
lines of coverage into a single policy. Having an international package policy
allows employers to build a comprehensive policy based on the specific risks
and exposures the company and its employees may encounter. Coverages that may
be placed in an international insurance package include general and products
liability, kidnap and ransom, continent automobile, and property and transit.

2. Communicate Coverage Details

Once the best travel coverage is identified and acquired for
the organization, the next step involves communicating the policy’s details to
all departments and employees. The organization should also specifically
address all employees who travel internationally so that they know the details
of their policy before they pack a suitcase or board a plane. Many
organizations include these details on a company intranet or will give them to
managers to share with employees. Carriers and brokers can create wallet cards
for traveling employees with policy details and the appropriate contact
information in case of emergency.

In addition, carrier partners typically provide instant
access to key travel information via mobile apps and other tools while the
employee prepares for travel or is already working abroad. Assistance services
offered by the insurance carrier may include legal assistance, lost baggage and
passport assistance, personal and pre-trip services and repatriation and
evacuation.

An effective communication plan for business travelers
should include a risk management component as well. Employers should share tips
for staying safe while traveling internationally, with details tailored to
where employees are traveling such as any specific information related to the
country and city in question. Another resource many employers use to learn
about international travel risks is the travel advisories found on the U.S.
Department of State website, Travel.State.Gov. This can be a valuable tool to
stay up to date on relevant information about the destination country.

3. Clarify the Claims Process

Any employee communications should not only inform the
employee about the types of coverage in place or facts about the destination,
but should also provide specific instructions about what to do in the event
that an injury or illness abroad requires filing a claim. Moreover, designated
employees in the home office should have a thorough understanding of the claims
and incident management process. International claims are often complex, and
may require measures like completing a preapproval process for payments.

Time differences, language barriers and unfamiliar health care systems only complicate matters. Because swift and accurate actions are often critical, it is important to work with a carrier whose travel assistance team has 24/7 access to the claims department. It is also important to work with a broker that has the requisite experience and knowledge to successfully guide a claim to its desired outcome.

Timothy J. Gosnear, CPCU, AU, is a managing director
and senior vice president in major accounts for Conner Strong & Buckelew. Michele
Fields
, Esq., is a claims consultant.

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