As economies grow ever more connected across international borders, business travel has increasingly become a global endeavor for companies of all sizes.
Consequently, as more employees are sent traveling to more destinations to check on factory operations or seal deals in remote, emerging markets, the possibility of something happening to a business traveler also increases.
That “something” can mean anything from a lost passport or luggage to the need for extraction from a dangerous situation in a foreign country due to political unrest.
And those may be the rarer risks of business travel: According to Zurich’s claims data, more than 60 percent of serious incidents during business travel are medical emergencies.
A country’s designation as a so-called emerging market “may not mean it is necessarily developed,” points out Suresh Krishnan, general counsel for Ace Group’s Multinational Client Group.
Can an employee get immediate and appropriate medical care after being seriously injured in a car accident while on his way to a meeting in India? What about a heart attack in South Africa, or a foodborne illness in Mexico? Those are the types of exposures business travel insurance can cover.
Getting proactive in protections
Marty Banaszek, group accident practice leader for Zurich North America Commercial, says that as companies look overseas for growth, “there is an increased awareness of other risks—gaps in coverage that may emerge—as well as a good understanding that the medical care we are used to [in the U.S.] may not be available where your employee is headed. Services now available are worth the peace of mind.”
For example, each country has an intricate healthcare system—and no matter how often a company travels, it can be impossible to know exactly where to go to get specific emergency medical treatment. That’s when a travel assistance program is key, says Banaszek.
Business travel policies can be customized based on: the types of coverage needed; the number of employees who regularly travel; length of typical trips; and employees’ classifications within the company.
Krishnan says risk managers and/or human resources personnel are increasingly asking: Is the insurance policy we have going to work, where we’re sending our employees? Are we going to be exposed to performance uncertainty and tax risks? Can one global policy pay a claim in all countries?
“Don’t assume,” he advises. “Laws and regulations can be restrictive.” For example, he points out, many countries restrict the purchase of insurance from carriers not licensed in their country.
James Walloga, vice president of Ace USA Accident & Health, Global Travel Risk Management, says insurance decision-makers are becoming more proactive: “There was a knowledge gap—knowing that these problems existed. Now they know, and they are looking for coverage.”
He notes that the nature of international travel has changed to shorter, task-oriented trips—or even a string of trips to numerous places, each with a different risk profile. “Many times these trips are planned quickly, with little time to prepare,” says Walloga. “There may not be the time to plan ahead as well as a company would like. We have the risk-management tools to do just that.”
“A broker can bring this information to the table and provide a carrier that has a global network...to address the local insurance requirements for employees worldwide,” says Frank D’Ancona, also a vice president of Ace’s USA Accident & Health, Global Travel Risk Management. Working with a company’s risk-management or human-resources contact, “a coordinated insurance program can be developed to deliver a global solution for a single claims philosophy.”
In response to companies’ growing need to mitigate their business-travel exposures, the insurance industry has stepped in with a wide array of coverage and tools to handle nearly every situation imaginable, “from the mundane to the severe,” says Scott Adamski, vice president of travel service for Travel Guard, a unit of Chartis.
For example, not only can an employee now get the care he needs to treat a heart attack, but transportation (even a helicopter evacuation) is provided and subsequent travel arrangements to return home are taken care of—for the employee and a companion, according to Zurich.
Each insurance provider has a network amassed after years of business travel insurance work. Lists of doctors and professionals to coordinate services can be accessed via one phone call—as well as partnerships with third-party companies to provide what Adamski calls “boots on the ground.”
If an employee needs to be extracted from a dangerous situation caused by weather or political upheaval, it can be done. And each insurance provider has a story—from locating and getting employees out of Haiti following an earthquake to making sure employees could leave Egypt during the political unrest there.
With a call, employers can attain a better understanding of the country where employees are headed in order to at least begin to identify the services needed should a medical, weather or political emergency arise.
While the above situations present the highest severity claims for insurers (imagine the expense of an evacuation), the highest-frequency claims involve more “nuisance-type situations”—but ones that can still cost companies serious money and time.
“Just losing your passport can create a major problem, and if you know someone who has done that, he or she can tell you,” says Adamski. “For an employee with schedules and deadlines, this can be very troublesome.”
Lost luggage or forgotten prescription drugs can also create a list of stresses and additional cost without insurer-provided services. Many, like Travel Guard, will supply travelers any needed medications that were left behind or locate lost luggage and deliver it to the employee’s location—even if that location changes.
Zurich even provides an advancement of bail, with a guarantee of reimbursement from the employer or employee.
“The world is getting a lot smaller,” says Adamski. “But with that comes different issues around the world, presenting a number of risks the insurance industry is looking to respond to.”