· 2 min read · Features

Back to basics... Health insurance for expats


Our back to basics series brings you top tips from industry experts on the bread and butter areas of HR

Why does it matter?

The right kind of health insurance enables expats to access medical care when they need it the most. It gives them the reassurance that their medical needs will automatically be taken care of, enabling them to focus on fulfilling their overseas business assignment. For the HR team, from both a legal and moral perspective it helps them to perform the necessary duty of care for those under their remit – wherever they may be.


  • Undertake pre-assignment medical screening for assignees, spouses and dependants. Awareness of pre-existing medical conditions (possibly as yet unknown ones) allows HR to ensure that their policies cover everything needed and that they’re providing the right kind of support. It also allows individuals and organisations to re-assess assignments if necessary.
  • Understand any exclusions that may apply within policies and go through the fine print. Are any conditions or scenarios excluded? If so what’s the potential impact of this? How would you deal with it? If the policy isn’t appropriate is there another one that is? If not will there need to be any compromises on the part of the individual or the business? And is this acceptable?
  • Understand the assistance provider and undertake due diligence on them. Do they cover every foreseeable scenario (and even those that may not be foreseeable)? Are they on hand 24/7 regardless of location or time zone? Do they have access to the right types of clinics and treatment plans to support known medical conditions and any developing conditions while someone’s on assignment?


  • Assume that a standard policy will cover everything. Although many policies will cover day-to-day scenarios, you also need to be prepared for more dramatic events that your expats could find themselves affected by. Does the policy cover these? Does the assistance provider have the ability to deal with these on a mass scale? Can they provide this assistance as part of fully-coordinated security and medical provision if necessary?
  • Just think about the physical conditions. There’s far more awareness now of the importance of general wellbeing and mental health issues. Does the policy and the assistance partner provide access to helplines and treatment for such conditions? Will it continue to provide support and treatment over an extended period of time?
  • Compromise on coverage or treatment provision. With the right policy and assistance provider, expats and their dependants should be able to receive medical and healthcare assistance on par with or even exceeding the levels they’re used to at home.
  • Assume that dealing with the immediate case is the end of the story. It’s important to think about longer-term care provision, potential repatriation and the ongoing psychological support that may be required following any type of case, whether physical or mental health-related. Think about what the impact is likely to be on the individual and their dependants. How will this affect their work and in turn the wider organisation?

Nicola Elcock is marketing director at Anvil Group and David Enser is head of cross border employment and reward innovation at the RES Forum