Our Top 10 Tips for Reducing Summer Break Questions and Issues with Faculty Health Insurance

June 2023

It’s summer vacation time, and the school leadership and HR need to rest also (especially after these last few years)! 

We’ve prepared our tips to help reduce noise around your faculty health insurance, in particular schools that have made benefit or insurer changes recently which will take effect in July or August. 

Basically, it’s our Top 10 List of the common issues and queries we see from faculty at this time each year, that with a little pre-holiday preparation can be avoided, and allow you and your team to better rest over the break, and higher levels of faculty satisfaction.

Do you want to be answering faculty emails all summer? OR relaxing on vacation?

#1 Summer Break Faculty Query: How do I contact the insurer?
 HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Communicate all relevant and necessary insurer AND broker contact information in a clear email before the break, and always let faculty know there is a soft copy in their inbox.
  • Give your faculty everything they need to handle ALL health insurance matters independently. 
  • Request (insist) that faculty SAVE the insurers 24 hour phone number into their mobile phone, including the overseas hotline number. 
  • Request (insist) that faculty SAVE this email for future reference. They can also forward the email to their personal emails and other family members. 
  • Instruct faculty that their first point of contact for all health insurance matters is the insurer – after all, it is the insurer’s job, and that’s why your school pays them a lot of money. 
  • Also let faculty know that if they need to escalate a matter, to forward to the broker – and include the broker’s contact details.

An email that includes this information will remove the need for HR and leadership involvement by more than 90%, so you can enjoy your summer break! Here are some additional tips:

#2 Summer Break Faculty Query: Did we change insurers? How do I contact the new insurer?
 HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: If your schools insurer changes over the summer break, make sure faculty have all the NEW contact details, and know when the change over date is (renewal date, often July 1, or Aug 1).

See point 1 above, and again request faculty to save the insurers 24 hour phone number into their mobile phone, including the overseas hotline number.

#3 Summer Break Faculty Query: Where’s my insurance card? 
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Distribute new insurance cards before the break, and always let faculty know there is a soft copy in their inbox.

If your plan renews over the summer break (in July or August) – as they do for many international schools – make sure to distribute hard copy insurance cards prior to your employees heading overseas. That way they will have the insurance cards in hand for their whole time away. Better yet, move completely to electronic cards and communicate ahead of the break the date when your employees can expect to be emailed a copy of their new soft copy card. Remember that electronic or soft copy health insurance cards are now accepted in nearly all hospitals and clinics and the information on the cards is identical to the hard copy cards.

#4 Summer Break Faculty Query: Have the benefits changed? When did this happen? Why was I not told? (aka the triumvirate query).
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Communicate any plan design changes before the break, and always let faculty know there is a soft copy in their inbox.

If the school has changed benefits or insurer recently, make sure to clearly communicate the changes to your faculty prior to their summer break. When employees schedule any planned medical treatment, they don’t like surprises in terms of out-of-pocket expenses that they perhaps didn’t know about. For example, many health insurance plans have a higher co-pay in the USA. So long as the co-pays and deductibles for any overseas treatment are clearly communicated to employees ahead of time, you can reduce the chances of surprises and dissatisfaction. Clear and early communication is even more important if you have recently changed insurance providers. And always have a copy sent to their inbox.

#5.1 Summer Break Faculty Query: At which hospitals and clinics can I get direct billing in [ input faculty home country or holiday destination ]?
 HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Request faculty download your plan’s direct billing list before the break, and always let faculty know how to access this via there is a soft copy in their inbox.

Whether faculty are traveling home or to a popular vacation destination, they can research what hospitals and clinics are included in your plan’s direct billing network list. Most insurers have a member website where faculty can search the network list and familiarize themselves with the options nearby to their travel destinations. 

#5.2 Summer Break Faculty Query: Why does the direct billing not work at this hospital or clinic which is on the insurers direct billing list?
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Request faculty are always prepared to pay by credit card or cash, and claim later.

Direct billing is a beautiful thing when it works; however it doesn’t always work smoothly in every hospital and clinic in the world, and in particular in hospitals and clinics that are in remote holiday destinations. It happens with EVERY insurer, and there are many reasons for this (of which we can discuss in a separate article), and the best guidance you can give faculty is to always have their credit card ready as a backup. 

If the direct billing facility doesn’t work, the member can pay and then claim back from the insurer later. Processing a claim reimbursement through the insurer’s website or app is pretty painless these days.

#6 Summer Break Faculty Query: I’m in a medical emergency, who should I call?
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Make sure your plan has a strong hospitalization component, and cover for medical evacuations.

And then go back to point 1 – make sure faculty have the insurers 24 hour contact details saved in their phone, work email, and personal email.

#7 Summer Break Faculty Query: Why does my insurance not cover me in the US? 
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Let faculty know the area of cover, and how to personally purchase additional cover if they need.

Some plans may have limitations or exclusions for certain countries or regions, so make sure you let your faculty know this in advance.

Some insurance plans offer cover in the US up to a maximum cover period for each trip – often 30-42 days. If your trip exceeds this limit, you may consider purchasing additional travel cover. Get in touch if your faculty needs this, we have some great options.

#8 Summer Break Faculty Query: Can I book medical treatment in advance for my upcoming holiday?
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Let faculty know yes they can, and should book any planned medical treatment as early as possible.

Since many expats like to schedule medical treatment over their annual trip home each summer, clinics and hospitals get booked up quickly. If they are planning treatment in July and August, best to get in contact with the medical facility now to get everything booked.

#9 Summer Break Faculty Query: Should I get my annual health check up and vaccinations before or after plan renewal? 
HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: Let faculty know the renewal date, and to use before renewal if they are yet to use the benefit, or use after renewal if they have already used the benefit.

If your school’s plan renews over the summer break (in July or August) – as they do for many international schools – then your wellness benefit (aka annual physical or annual health check-up) and vaccination benefit will reset when your plan renews. If your plan has a July 1 renewal date and you’ve not had your annual physical this policy year, make sure to get something booked prior to June 30. Many expats still like to have their annual physical with a doctor in their home country, so the summer break is the perfect time to do this. Thailand is also a popular destination for many expats for their annual health check-up. If you would like to know more about the health check-up options at popular private hospitals in Bangkok, send an email to [email protected] and we will send you a list of discounted annual wellness check up packages for Thailand. 

Similarly, many expats choose to get their vaccinations done on holiday, as sometimes it is not possible to have all the recommended vaccinations in your country of expat residence that are often needed for living and working abroad. Being back home is therefore a great opportunity to review your vaccination history with your doctor, and make sure you are up-to-date. You can find a complete list of all the vaccinations recommended by the CDC for all countries here: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list (You’ll also want to get the necessary vaccinations if you’re traveling somewhere for vacation).

#10 Summer Break Faculty Query: Am I covered for skiing / extreme sports, or can I travel to this high risk country?
 HR Pre-holiday Preparation/Solution: These are specific questions that the individual member can ask the insurer or broker directly.

Members may need an additional travel insurance cover, such as cover for adventure activities or extreme sports if they plan on engaging in such activities during your vacation. 

And faculty should make sure to stay informed about travel advisories and warnings for their destination, as insurance coverage may be affected or limited in countries with high-risk ratings or during times of political unrest or natural disasters.

Let faculty know that if they have specific questions that they should reach out directly to the insurer or broker in advance to check cover with the insurer, and / or if they should buy a personal supplementary travel insurance plan.

To summarize, if your HR team can send out an email to cover the first point, it will reduce questions and issues of health insurance to HR by over 90% throughout the summer break, (and if you can cover all 10 points you’ll be closer to >95%). Furthermore, your faculty will love it – it reminds faculty that the school is planning ahead and looking out for their best interests over the break. 

If your team would like some email templates, or assistance putting these communications together, get in touch.

We have been assisting schools in this preparation for almost 20 years, and can help tailor a communication for your faculty with your insurer’s specific details.

Lastly, a chance to raise a few important issues that the school may wish to consider in future: 

Am I covered in the US? What is my Area of Cover?: Many faculty health insurance plans do not include cover members in the US, and some plans do not cover members outside the country their school is based. This can present a hole in the program, and leave your faculty exposed financially. As we all know, faculty have many holidays throughout the year, and they travel to many countries around the world, including the US. 

To resolve this, it is recommended to cover emergencies outside of area of cover, and this does not add a lot of cost to premiums. If your school would like to offer emergency only cover in the US, get in touch and we will show you how to incorporate this at a very low cost.

My school offers a very low level of cover, and only in the country my school is based. What can I do? Some faculty health insurance plans offer very low benefits, which cannot be used outside of the country where the school is based. We typically see this in South East Asia, such as Thailand and Malaysia where treatment in local hospitals and clinics can be very low. 

If your school just does not have the budget to improve cover, HR can suggest faculty to personally purchase a supplementary short term travel medical plan which will provide an adequate amount of emergency medical cover. We have some great options available which faculty can buy directly. If you would like to know more about travel medical plan options, please get in touch.

We hope that these tips will help the school leadership, HR and your faculty feel prepared and safer these holidays, so everyone can have a happy, relaxing and healthy summer break. Safe travels…

One World Cover | Health Insurance Specialists If you are concerned that your current health insurance plan might not be sufficient for your needs at this uncertain time and are interested in us reviewing (free-of-charge, no obligation) your insurance cover to ensure you are fully protected – or can be better protected in the future – please get in touch. We are happy to help. In the meantime, stay healthy.

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