As the industry picks up momentum more miners through acquisition, exploration, or joint venture will be venturing abroad with more employees undertaking international travel or being located overseas creating greater exposure to accident, sickness and kidnap risk and even civil unrest.
Adding jurisdictions to an employee’s work schedule increases the likelihood of their experiencing one of these events particularly in the mining industry where work sites are more likely to be in challenging locations. Typically the industry looks to insurance or an outsourced service to provide compensation for, or services to mitigate these risks. Such protections are an important prerequisite for attracting the experienced personnel needed for these locations and of course their cost is an important consideration but in securing these plans employers are often hoping for the best and not necessarily planning for the worst.
The worst in this case is the failure to properly protect or provide for an employee in an emergency and will involve brand damage and a cost greater than a little diligence at the front end to ensure that the policy or contract will deliver as promised.
Attention is mostly directed at premiums and eligibility administration and we typically rely on an assurance by the provider or insurer that the service delivery, the most important part will be there as promised. This is not to say that carriers are selling inadequate solutions. The needs of employers are different and each require customized services. There are a number of integrated moving parts, often administered by different providers that should be tested before they are needed.
Here are some examples:
Are there appropriate home country language call centers available to assist with local medical decisions and international style clinics available locally. Some employees or their families will incur claims internationally and others in their home location. Can a provider reimburse these in a timely fashion and not just in the location in which they were incurred? How will currency differences be dealt with and who will pay the charges for transferring funds? Can the insurer adjudicate effectively a claim incurred in a foreign clinic? Will the plan reimburse claims incurred in the home country during leave? Make certain the countries where services are needed are already within the provider’s sphere of operations. Seek a reference from a client located there.
Design will often reflect that typically found in the country of the insurer’s parent (e.g. USA, UK, France) and may not necessarily be what your employees are familiar with. Bigger deductibles and copayments plus different reimbursement schedules may be included and knowing about these and how they may affect your employees will assist a successful launch. Don’t assume that because a feature has the same name as in the home country plan that the coverage is the same.
Disability claims tend be higher in the extractive industries than in general industry and most claimants want to return to their “home” location. However, long term expatriates or those hired locally may regard “home” as the host location and will want to remain even after a debilitating illness or accident. If your workforce comprises long term expatriates or those hired locally on expatriate terms ensure that the insurer can pay disability claims and handle ongoing medical continuance examinations in the host location. Workers compensation benefits may also be suspended if an employee fails to undergo required examinations. Make sure that these can be conducted where the incapacitated employee is located.
When located in urban centers this is a relatively simple process but mining industry people are usually not “downtown”. In remote locations without major airports it is critical to know where an aircraft will land and whether the strip is adequate for the type of aircraft to be used. Secondly there needs to be agreed protocols between those who will conduct the evacuation. In a medical emergency this may mean that the health care and the evacuation teams may work for different organizations, know exactly who will do what. Lives may be at risk if these details are not mapped out in advance. Don’t assume that the providers will decide this at the time you need the service. Don’t forget to include board members as eligible if they undertake site visits from time to time.
No international plan or set of plans comes without challenges ranging from high risk through to inconvenience. Any failure or reputational damage will negatively affect your employment brand and ability to attract increasingly scarce mobile skills. The best way to avoid such problems is diligence around delivery and advance planning including dry runs. Collecting premiums and paying claims is where most client frustrations arise and this is where providers focus their service efforts. Attention needs to be given to how benefits are going be delivered because that is where reputational damage can occur.