31 May 2018

Health insurance for children of overseas workers should be a priority

Since 1925, 1 June has been designated as International Children’s Day. This year The Health Insurance Group is marking this by encouraging employers to consider the health insurance provisions they have in place for the children of overseas workers.

It is well established that, as their immune system builds, children are far more likely than adults to fall ill. Children travelling with their parents as they undertake overseas work are no exception. The cost of treatment is highly likely to outweigh the cost of international health cover. Furthermore, putting cover in place may well cost less than many think, as international private medical insurance is the same cost for children of any age from birth up to 17 years old.

In some countries, it is a legal requirement that employers provide private medical insurance for employees. As an example, recent changes to legislation in the UAE means that in Abu Dhabi, employers and sponsors are required to provide health insurance for their employees and their families.

Even where this is no legal requirement to provide health insurance for children it is sensible to do so. As Sarah Dennis, head of international for The Health Insurance Group says: “Employers need to be prepared for the fact that children are likely to get ill. Health insurance needs to be included for the whole family and not just the employee themselves. Children will be exposed to different germs, viruses and bacteria in their new home, and may also encounter new allergies, rashes and bites. All of which may need treatment.

“For more serious illnesses, medical evacuation may be needed, and the cost of this can easily run into thousands of pounds. It’s a false economy to not extend cover to children.”

Although many childhood diseases such as measles, scarlet fever and polio have been hugely reduced and, in some cases eradicated, they can reoccur and are still relatively common in some countries. For example, measles* is still common in many developing countries – particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Having cover in place to protect children travelling overseas where risks from these illnesses are higher makes sense.

Given the risks and costs involved, it is understandable that overseas employees want health insurance for their families. And there are various options to do so, including giving the option for staff to self-fund via salary sacrifice schemes, which can help employers with cost control. International Children’s Day provides a helpful reminder for employers to review the health insurance they offer the children of overseas employees.

Even where there is no legal requirement to do so, The Health Insurance Group strongly advocates insuring children’s health and getting expert advice on the best way to do this.

* http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/measles