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The importance of health care when finding a job abroad

The benefits of working abroad have long been discussed – improved well-being, a new culture to discover and a better work-life balance being just three examples. But committing to a move aboard can be daunting, especially if you have a career and family that are already settled in your country of origin. 

A factor that can bring reassurance is the knowledge that you and your family will have access to high-quality health care along with the opportunity to experience an improved quality of life. With good health and well-being being key to making the most of new opportunities and experiences, what health care benefits should expats, both new and experienced, consider when looking for a job abroad?

Aetna International surveyed 1,000 expats in four countries (Germany, Singapore, UAE and Mexico) to discover their expectations around their health and quality of life when living and working abroad.

Key findings: Expat expectations

The pandemic has encouraged many people to reassess what they want from their work, resulting in more focus on improving well-being and family life. Of the expats we surveyed, 86% said that the prospect of providing a better quality of life for their family was an important consideration when deciding whether to take a job opportunity abroad.

Our research also found that access to quality health care was the biggest challenge. Almost one in three (30%) respondents felt this way, ranking it above finding a suitable home (23%), language barriers (22%), high living costs (21%) and access to quality schooling (20%).

From these responses, it is clear that concern about finding the level of health care support they require is a concern for many potential and existing expats.

Quality of life

86% of expats said that improving well-being and family life was a key reason for wanting to move, but improvements to quality of life can be broad and personal, so what does this really mean? The term generally refers to the physical and mental health of an individual and their family, but these can also be impacted by environmental, social and economic factors. In this sense, quality of life can be improved in a broad number of ways, for example, through reduced stress, a better work-life balance, improved diet and increased pay.

With quality of life covering such a broad spectrum, employees should be looking for roles with health benefits that extend beyond simply treatment of conditions or ‘sick care’ – instead, focusing on mental health support, preventative care and holistic services to help minimise the risk and impact of ill health.

Post-pandemic health care

In our article ‘Striking a balance between physical and mental well-being for employees,’ we reveal that while awareness and focus on mental health support has grown significantly, 59% still want their health care benefits package to prioritise physical care. While this is an understandable response to the pandemic, it may also highlight a remaining stigma around mental health at work. 

Despite the uncertainty around COVID-19, our Expat Experiences Survey 2020 showed that expats have been adopting a positive approach to their new ‘lockdown’ lifestyles. As well as feeling happy (43.7%), safe (42.2%) and welcome (37.1%) while living abroad, many have improved their health and well-being, with 60% eating more healthily and 43% exercising more. 

These responses to the pandemic further highlight the importance of finding a health care insurance provider that prioritises wellness and whole-person health – one that matches the proactive attitude expats take to their well-being and quality of life, and balances physical and mental health support.

Providing family health care 

Another expectation for expats is that their employee health benefits will also extend to their immediate family. 44% of those surveyed expect their employer to provide full health care cover for both the individual and their partner, compared to 39% that only expected cover for themselves. 

This shift in priority towards family is also demonstrated when they were asked what the most important factors were when considering a new job abroad. While 85% said the financial package, it was only the third most popular option behind family health care-related benefits (87%) and improved quality of life for family (86%).

While some employers already provide family cover, it is not guaranteed. Neither is the scope of the coverage, making this an important aspect to consider when considering work abroad.

Access to quality health care

Future expats should also be considering the overall health care quality in their new country. In many cases, high-quality private care can be very expensive. For example, many private hospitals in Mexico will not deal directly with insurers, expecting patients to provide upfront payments, making it vital to have comprehensive private health insurance as well as sufficient financial resources before travelling. 

In many countries, it is common for employers to contribute to expat employee health care, including Germany. However, this is not necessarily comprehensive, so it is important to know which elements (e.g. emergency care, dental, maternity) will be available. Researching the breadth of this care and which aspects may still require private health insurance will allow you to fully understand your benefits coverage and top-up your employer-funded policy with additional cover, as required.

Further information on the quality of health care around the world can be found in our Destination Guides. Practical guidance on moving to a new country for work, including health care information and how to settle quickly, can be found in our Guide to Expat Life for International Employees.

Summary: Improved health care benefits

When assessing the health and wellness benefits associated with a new job abroad, employees should look for the following:

  • A holistic approach that goes beyond simply treatment. Services and resources that can help with prevention and wellness will help to identify and minimise the risk to health that could come from physical and mental issues.
  • A balance of mental health and physical health services. While awareness of mental health issues has grown over recent years, your benefits should provide support and peace of mind for both your physical and emotional needs.
  • Family cover, either provided by your employer or bought as a separate policy.

If your new role does not offer the level of health care coverage you require, Aetna International can help. Our members have access to a growing range of services available to support their physical and mental health and improve their quality of life:

If you do not have international health care provided by your employer, or if you would like to add cover for your family, then get a quote for international health insurance, today.