Reviewing a school’s medical insurance can be a technical, painstaking business. Rachel Thorpe looks at how to compare apples with apples and secure the best cover for your staff.
Teaching internationally has always been deemed an adventure, and it certainly is. But when taking a job overseas, especially these days, there are serious considerations to take into account when making what can be a life changing decision.
Benefits teachers look for
In my experience teachers look at two major benefits when they accept a job – housing and medical insurance. The pandemic could possibly have done a favour to teachers wishing to work abroad, if we are allowed to say that, as healthcare provision made by schools is improving rapidly.
All staff must feel reassured that, when they need assistance in a medical emergency, they have it. Even if it’s not an emergency, they need to know that someone’s got their back. And that means the people who are providing the insurance. There are two things to bear mind: of course it’s about the benefits, but it’s also the way that those benefits are administered in terms of the support and ongoing care provided throughout the policy year. As a school leader, having confidence in your healthcare provider is crucial: accidents or serious illnesses can poison the atmosphere in a school if potentially life-threatening situations are not handled well.
Understand your plan
The first thing to do is to get the correct plan in place, and to make sure you understand it. Of course, the size of a school’s budget will determine the level of coverage offered to teachers. Location will also play a large part as some areas of the world are obviously more attractive than others, be it from a social or geographical viewpoint. For those schools in less appealing areas, a good benefits package is key to attract the best teachers: the lack of robust healthcare insurance, especially in more volatile regions, can be a deal breaker for many.
Comparison and negotiation
Medical insurance will be one of the bigger items on a school’s operating budget, so in addition to seeking the best cover for staff it also makes sense to shop around in order to find the best value. Comparison can become difficult and technical, so if the time has come to review a long-standing policy, it does pay to approach a broker to set up a comparison of what is on the market that might be suitable for meeting the school’s needs. Benchmarking your current deal with the most likely alternatives just makes sense.
Informing yourself what is in the marketplace also puts a school in a better position to negotiate. Insurers will compete for schools when it comes to renewal times, with their eye on the big players with the larger workforce. But the content and detail of the coverage will seal the deal when you are recruiting faculty because, at the end of the day, certain schools have to guarantee a high level of healthcare benefits to entice those sought-after teachers through their door.
Customer care and the broker’s role
But it’s not all about the cost and the small-print. From experience we have found that there’s one added bonus that swings it for schools when recruiting staff. As elementary as it sounds and it certainly isn’t rocket science, that added little bonus is purely and simply, customer care. It may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many policies do not provide this. A dedicated account manager, who adds a personal touch, is actually quite a rare phenomenon, and can be particularly valuable when a broker joins the insurer to offer an enhanced level of service. Word gets around the staffrooms and faculty lounges when things go well – but particularly when things go badly.
As brokers ourselves, we take the view that our service is paramount to the overall package when a school is finalising arrangements with their chosen insurance company. We want our members to feel confident and comfortable with their medical cover; it’s important to us that they feel reassured. And when the policy comes to the point where it is tested, having someone with whom you have cultivated a relationship to advise you as you talk to the insurer and negotiate with a hospital, can sometimes literally make the difference between life and death.
We therefore have our own account managers on hand around the clock to assist with all our members’ medical needs and queries. When dealing with a range of issues, from registering on the online portal, to disputes with claims, it makes a difference to have an expert on your side. This can be invaluable in certain situations, especially emergencies. Imagine you are in Angola and one of your staff has had an accident, needs to be hospitalised and possibly requires surgery. Decisions have to be made, insurers contacted, and green lights given so that you can act to maximum effect within the terms of the insurance. Having a ‘live’ voice at the end of the phone to take this on – someone who is on your side to help, working between you and your insurer to ensure the patient receives the treatment and service that they need – makes all the difference.
This is possibly the most important (and rewarding) part of a good broker’s role. Removing stress and panic can play a vital role in a patient’s recovery. And this kind of service should not be limited to emergency situations – the same support is needed whether the problem is an on-going serious illness, a routine wellness check, or advice for follow up physio after an operation. Knowing that medical needs are being met effectively makes for a calmer, happier patient. Which also results in calmer, happier staff!
Compassion and empathy are not words generally associated with insurance. But this is precisely what the best brokers and insurers offer their members, every day of the year.
Rachel Thorpe is Senior Vice President and Employee Benefits Consultant at Tygate
Before becoming involved in insurance, Rachel was an international teacher, specialising in specific learning difficulties and curriculum development.
If you need advice as an individual or as a school, Rachel can be contacted on +44 7702621114 (UK mobile) or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org