Your client lands a top job in another country and wants the best healthcare money can buy. But what about the stresses involved with relocation?
If your client is married with children they will want to take the family too but this doesn’t come without consequences to their health.
They will also have to deal with the issues of finding suitable accommodation and schools in the area, which can lead to stress problems and may affect the job they were employed to do.
Dr Stephen Pereira, a consultant at London’s Priory Clinic, treats stress in high-pressure work environments. He says one in five people suffers from high levels of work-related stress and ten per cent of workers have shown symptoms of anxiety.
He acknowledges stress is sometimes a good thing, because it can enhance performance and the thinking processes. But he finds stress can also be a strain on physical health, leading to exhaustion and illness, which can affect the work the expatriate was relocated to do.
Dr Pereira suggests loneliness and readjusting to new surroundings can lead to stress as well as finding accommodation and schools for children.
For this reason, several international PMI insurers are starting to provide help for members with these sort of everyday issues. But is this really necessary? Other insurers and some intermediaries believe these kinds of issues are best dealt with separately by employers.
Cigna International boasts it is in the “business of caring”. Its expatriate healthcare insurance product, available to UK employers with staff overseas since 1996, takes the stress out of relocating employees and families to a different country so they no longer need to worry about anything, just the job in hand.
Cigna International sponsored research in 2000 that found three-quarters of expatriates are male and 58 per cent of them have children.
Around 65 per cent of the expatriates are aged between 25 and 44 and 70 per cent have a spouse or partner with them.
Cigna offers three core plans (standard, premier and premier plus), which all aim to reduce the possibility of stress having an impact on the expatriate’s job and focus on servicing the needs of expatriate’s family by arranging help to find accommodation and schools.
The service includes a 24-hour contact telephone number for all queries available 365 days a year from anywhere in the world. It is a one-stop multilingual resource for all members, including emergency evacuation, medical repatriation, long-distance medical advice, and assistance and confirmation of cover.
Allianz Worldwide Care general manager of sales and marketing Claude Daboul explains that some other countries do not have a National Health Service and, for this reason, the insurer has a helpline that provides advice on locating physicians and dentists.
But another international PMI provider, InterGlobal, has a different approach. Business development director Peter Rousseau says the insurer does not run a helpline for expatriates because money is the most important driver when an employee takes on a new role abroad.
He explains: “Money is a big insulator. People can put up with the inconvenience of relocating and a change of culture, such as living a spartan life, if it means that at the end they have accumulated a considerable amount of wealth.
“We would rather pay for someone to go to see a psychiatrist than provide a helpline. In many cases, people on the other end of telephone helplines are not professionals. If they were, they would be working in a practice.”
He suggests a prudent employer would have done a reconnaissance and some research of the area to reduce the stress of finding schools and accommodation.
Alexander Forbes IFA Malcolm Brebner says: “Stress is not something specifically addressed by providers. It’s more usually dealt with through an employee assistance programme service. These organisations are run independently and tend to be a separate animal to insurance.
“Most companies with an expatriate population are big enough to have been there and done that.”