Be prepared for the unexpected with medical repatriation insurance

Be prepared for the unexpected with medical repatriation insurance

In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever for companies to provide company health insurance, particularly when their employees are working abroad. While we might not be able to predict the future, it pays to be one step ahead and leave nothing to chance when our health and well-being are at risk.
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Let’s be honest, we don’t know what’s around the corner. Global events may be beyond our control, however, they are a reminder that we’re experiencing a period of great change and the stability we’ve taken for granted no longer exists. So, we have to adapt to the new normal.

This scenario affects us in different ways and for employees working abroad, it has a direct impact on their lives. Many expats experienced strict travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic when they were unable to return home to see their family and friends. For NGO and IGO staff, there’s the specific challenge of working in some of the world’s most remote, and sometimes dangerous, territories. Developing countries may lack proper infrastructure and the facilities we take for granted; they might also be susceptible to civil unrest, while extreme weather brought about by climate change is something we’re all learning to live with. The fact is, there’s a lot going on in the world today and the potential for things to go wrong. It follows that employers and their international employees must be prepared for such uncertainties, especially when they can be detrimental to their health and well-being.

Today, company health insurance is considered a must for employees working overseas. The quality and availability of health services can contrast greatly from country to country and in some territories it’s also extremely expensive. That’s why a reliable alternative is essential – one that includes repatriation insurance cover.

Evacuation and repatriation insurance – what’s the difference?

While both types of insurance meet the transport costs incurred in a medical emergency, there’s a major difference between them. Evacuation insurance includes the cost of taking the employee to the nearest hospital or medical centre for treatment should local healthcare facilities be considered inadequate. The repatriation option applies if healthcare is to continue in their home country.

To be clear, evacuation and repatriation insurance covers transport, accommodation and related costs associated with a medical emergency. Depending on the policy, it will also pay for a family member to accompany the patient on the journey to and from hospital. However, it does not cover the cost of the treatment itself.

Repatriation insurance costs vary depending on the country of residence, journey time, the mode of transport required, the severity of the patient’s condition and the medical support needed on route. The policy will cover the cost of a scheduled flight, land or air ambulance or, in some cases, a helicopter – and all this doesn’t come cheap. For example, a flight from Europe to the UK by air ambulance costs in the region of 15,000 euro1 and you won’t get much change from 50,000 euro if the flight departs from USA1.

Quality health care in a medical emergency

Given the level of unpredictability that often surrounds overseas assignments and the fact that medical emergencies can occur at any time, repatriation and evacuation have become integral to international health insurance.

With evacuation cover, an employee who is badly injured in an accident or becomes unwell can be transported to a hospital in another town or city in the same country to get medical treatment where local services cannot provide suitable care. In extreme cases, patients may be referred to a different country if their condition requires specialist attention, for example, a spinal injury. There’s another reason why company insurance is now considered non-negotiable. The quality of health systems around the world differs greatly and in many developing countries services are limited. While this impacts all organisations, it’s a particular concern for NGO and IGO staff and contractors whose work might take them to remote territories lacking even the most basic health facilities.

Why repatriation insurance cover is essential

Repatriation medical insurance is a core plan benefit that covers the cost of taking an employee home to receive or continue their treatment. Again, this is designed to protect staff in a medical emergency when local facilities cannot offer the level of health care needed or services are prohibitively expensive.

If an employee’s health deteriorates quickly, repatriation is often considered the best course of action, as it means essential medical treatment can be administered at home. It is also a practical option when an assignment is coming to an end and a patient is facing a lengthy stay in hospital followed by a further period of convalescence. More importantly, many expats want to be transferred home if they are unwell. There’s the comfort and security that comes from familiarity – maybe a hospital they’ve attended before, the support of a local GP and regular visits from family and friends. Together, this can help to speed up the patient’s recovery and improve their emotional well-being at a stressful and uncertain time.

Protecting your employees when they’re working abroad

Coming to terms with an unexpected diagnosis or a serious injury can be frightening and stressful – more so if this happens when an employee is far from home. Unfamiliar surroundings and language barriers can combine to make things worse at a time when reassurance and help are what’s really required. When this happens, employers have to step up, take responsibility and make sure their staff are not left to deal with everything themselves.

Repatriation and evacuation cover is a key feature of our international health insurance plans. They are designed to reflect the lives of global employees and their families, giving them access to high-quality health care around the world. Our plans meet the specific challenges of the assignment journey and the need to respond quickly when things don’t go according to plan – and as we all know, that’s going to happen at some point.


If you’d like to discover more about our health plans, talk to us today. We are responsible for the healthcare requirements of over 180 million customers and patients worldwide and lead the market in developing cost-effective, sustainable plans that can be customised to include the products, services and tools each client needs.

Cigna Connect is our latest solution. Designed for small businesses, our Connect plans fill a gap in the market for simple, affordable and flexible health insurance that offers outstanding cover and great value for money.

Discover what makes Cigna Connect the choice of SMEs around the world


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