Providing suitable global health insurance to remote teams presents a number of challenges. The reason? The complex nature of international regulations, diverse healthcare systems, and varying employee needs.
As organizations embrace remote work and expand their operations across borders, ensuring adequate health coverage for their dispersed workforce becomes a critical task. Navigating the intricacies of different countries’ insurance laws, identifying comprehensive coverage options that align with your global workforce’s requirements, and overcoming administrative hurdles pose significant obstacles for HR teams, especially for scaling startups.
In this dynamic landscape, a thoughtful and strategic approach is essential to providing the necessary coverage and support to remote workers while adhering to local regulations.
Here, we’ll cover 6 ways to provide global health insurance to remote workers, whether you operate as a fully remote company or on a hybrid model.
Across the world, employers are tasked with providing private health insurance or registering employees for government healthcare. Even if it’s not necessary, offering health insurance may be your best bet to attract and retain top talent, and be competitive in the recruiting process.
Some countries like Germany and Spain already offer health care provided through their social security system, so understanding how to register remote employees for this government benefit should be a priority.
Compliance for insurance will mean different things in different countries, and depending on where you’re hiring, you’ll need to make sure that you’re meeting the necessary requirements.
Finding the right remote work insurance will ensure that you’re providing all employees with similar and fair coverage.
When hiring contractors, consider offering them additional pay per project or a higher hourly salary, because they aren’t able to register for a company insurance plan.
Contractors should never be put on a businesses insurance policy, as this could lead to classification problems which could lead to expensive legal repercussions.
Those who work as a digital nomad or under a remote work visa usually find their own health insurance that can double as international health and travel insurance..Digital nomads are known to travel frequently between countries and therefore may not be able to have health insurance solely in one country.
Digital nomad insurance typically covers:
Emergency medical and dental expenses
Flight cancellation or delay
Political complications that lead to an evacuation
These options are best if the person is a digital nomad and moving around a lot.
Another type of coverage for remote global health insurance is for your business to engage directly with the insurance provider and set up a private health policy.
However, this route means that you will need 1) to have an entity (or home base operation) in one country as well as 2) set up an HR team to manage these benefits directly. You may need to explore different health insurance policy options before deciding what fits your remote workers’ health needs best.
If you are a small startup, you may have a workforce spread throughout multiple countries. Trying to open an entity in each place may be next to impossible, due to cost and time constraints.
A third option that many companies opt into is providing employees with health stipends or wellness stipends. A health stipend allows the employee to purchase their own individual plan that fits their needs (this may be a good choice for contractors if you want to offer additional benefits without putting them on payroll).
Unfortunately, you aren’t able to get an employee discount (like you can with group healthcare plans), which can lead to additional costs to both the employer and employee.
Another option is to offer a reimbursement plan, which is similar to a health stipend. With this option, companies can give remote employees a reimbursement if they need to seek medical attention.
Many employees are nervous to agree to this option, out of fear that they won’t be compensated correctly and may accumulate medical debt.
Reimbursement plans could end up costing your business more money than just finding a regular plan that has set regulations and deductions. These options are better suited as solutions for last minute emergency care.
Another option for companies with an entity abroad is to partner with a local professional-employer-organization (PEO). PEOs can outsource health insurance benefits only in the country your employee works remotely.
Startups usually choose this option because they need more flexibility to scale up and down.
Partnering with a local PEO for health insurance means that you’ll still need:
Set up an entity (which usually takes between 3-6 months)
Research reputable PEOs in that country to partner with
Register with local agencies to conduct businesses
An employer-of-record (EOR) partner like Via is an organization that hires and pays employees on behalf of another foreign company. EOR is the way to hire and manage overseas workers while staying fully compliant with both countries' labor laws. The most frequent scenario for using an EOR to offer remote health insurance is when a company wants to hire workers abroad but doesn’t have the time or resources to register a local entity.
An employer-of-record can be useful for providing distributed teams with health insurance. An EOR takes care of all of the HR processes including health insurance without entity incorporation. The employer-of-record can provide all the legal answers, help with plans and pricing, and suggest standard coverage levels with authority.
The downside, however, is the same as with local partners. If your employees are located across different countries, you will have to set up and manage this process with different EOR organizations, or find an EOR with coverage across multiple countries.
Before deciding, you should understand exactly what is required for employees based on where they’ll be working remotely.
Compliance is key when deciding on what remote health insurance to provide. For example, in the United States, employment is considered at-will, meaning employers are not required to provide any types of benefits to employees unless their organization meets very specific expectations. In Mexico, however, you need to register employees for social security (at baseline) and offer private health insurance to be a competitive employer.
The insurance industry is already full of confusing hurdles. Adding in cross-border, remote employees only adds to this complexity. Before you decide on what type of remote healthcare to provide your employees, make sure that you’re asking them what is non-negotiable and what they expect out of their plan.
Via makes hiring talent around the world and building your global team seamless by helping you onboard workers in as little as 2-3 business days. With our easy-to-use platform, Via helps you manage local HR processes for direct employment such as work visas & permits, employee data privacy compliance, benefits, global payroll, background checks, and more. Our team of local labor lawyers and on-the-ground experts provide 24-hour local support and ensure that your company remains compliant while expanding abroad. As your employer-of-record/entity abroad, Via assumes responsibility for employment liability, so that you can focus on what matters: recruiting and managing your team.