Benefits Managers Expect 'U.S. Bound Expatriate' Population To Rise

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Healthcare Benefits

Aetna Global Benefits provides support for foreign individuals and their families navigating U.S. health care system

Aetna Global Benefits, the international business of Aetna (NYSE: ΑET), released findings today from a study conducted with 200 benefits managers of mid- to large-sized corporations which showed expected growth in the number of skilled foreign workers in the United States, also referred to as "U.S.-bound expatriates." Of the corporations who participated in the study, two in every five benefits managers (41 percent) say they expect this population to increase in the next three years. Cultural assimilation of the foreign worker into everyday American society and getting health plans understood by U.S.-bound expatriates are two issues that face benefits administrators.

"Most multinational corporations deal with an often confusing array of benefit programs based on both national and private health care systems worldwide," said Martha Temple, head of Aetna Global Benefits. "We're seeing an increasing need for benefits managers to offer plans that provide the benefits of a domestic plan, with domestic connections and capabilities, paired with specialized offerings to meet the multilingual and multicultural needs of the U.S.-bound expatriate population."

Benefits administrators identify high costs and responsibility for ensuring adequate coverage for expatriate employees and their families as the main issues they confront in dealing with the U.S. healthcare system. In addition, administrators believe expatriate employees find the health care system complex and confusing, and have difficulty understanding and using the system.

"The formalities of the U.S. system take some getting used to for U.S.-bound expatriates, as do the wide variety of provider choices and sources of health care needs," noted one survey respondent.

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Further, the United States was listed as one of the most challenging among foreign assignment locations - both for expatriates and for administrators in the Global Relocation Trends 2003/2004 Survey Report, sponsored by GMAC Global Relocation Services, the National Foreign Trade Council and SHRM Global Forum.

"When you bring someone to the United States from a country with a very different health care system, benefits managers bear the responsibility of educating individuals who are often on a steep learning curve when it comes to accessing U.S. health care," said Temple. "It is important to identify opportunities to improve access to care and ease of use of the health care system, both for the individual and their families, and for the companies that are employing them."

Generally, professionals are sent to the U.S. as expatriates to fill managerial positions; to give them exposure to foreign business practices; to impart the parent corporation's culture, and/or to shift them where the demand for work exists. These individuals and their families are in the United States for an average of two years, are often employed in the Technology/IT sectors of the business and are more likely to be from India and from China than from any other countries, according to the study.

Aetna Global Benefits (AGB), the international health and group benefits subsidiary of Aetna, Inc., provides comprehensive benefits coverage for more than 130,000 expatriates, third-country nationals, and key local nationals in over 100 countries.

AGB believes that the U.S.-bound expatriate market's needs differ from those of permanent domestic employees and is committed to working with benefits managers to tailor solutions based on their employee populations, be it in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

As one of the nation's leading providers of health care, dental, pharmacy, group life, disability and long-term care benefits, Aetna puts information and helpful resources to work for its approximately 14.65 million medical members, 13.03 million dental members, 9.34 million pharmacy members and 13.67 million group insurance members to help them make better informed decisions about their health care and protect their finances against health-related risks. Aetna provides easy access to cost-effective health care through a nationwide network of more than 700,000 health care professionals, including over 418,000 primary care and specialist doctors and 4,231 hospitals. For more information, please visit www.aetna.com (Figures as of September 30, 2005).

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