Excelling in Healthcare for Expats

How UnitedHealthcare Global’s Brian Iaia helps international travelers and expatriates get the care they need virtually anywhere in the world

As companies and employees become more globally mobile, managing their healthcare, safety, and overall well-being around the world has become an increasingly critical consideration. UnitedHealthcare Global is a leading partner for companies with these needs, and Brian Iaia, senior VP and general counsel, leads the team that helps ensure members get the care they need.

“UnitedHealthcare Global provides healthcare coverage on a global basis,” Iaia says. “We integrate clinically led medical care and case management oversight. We offer travel assistance and security intelligence services when necessary. And, when an evacuation is needed for personal safety or medical reasons, we also manage those end-to-end.”

Iaia and his team thrive at the intersection of commerce with the constantly changing web of complex laws and regulations. “The global commerce market is complicated from a legal, regulatory, and compliance perspective,” he says. “My team takes international, geographically specific legal and compliance issues fully into account when guiding the services UnitedHealthcare Global delivers and advising our clients regarding their globally mobile employees. Our intent is that we remain compliant and that it is all seamless for our clients.”

Brian Iaia, senior VP and general counsel of UnitedHealthcare Global

Iaia and his team track the ever-changing landscape of health insurance regulations in more than 190 countries around the world, in support of the company’s diverse offerings. “When you’re buying domestic healthcare insurance coverage, compliance is just assumed,” Iaia says. “The regulatory structure is well settled, and the rules are fairly consistent. The international side is different. Rules and regulations vary greatly by country, and it is important to understand those nuances to ensure our members have easy access to the care they need.”

Iaia has developed a legal framework to manage, anticipate, and respond to regulatory developments with experienced attorneys on his staff and access to expert, outside counsel as needed. He knows the leading legal and commercial publications that are the first to report on emerging laws and routinely meets with regulators around the globe to discuss trending issues. His team has to maintain their expertise at a level that is as wide as it is deep. For example, in certain Middle Eastern countries, expatriates cannot obtain a work permit or residence visa until they get healthcare coverage from a locally licensed insurer. UnitedHealthcare Global coverage won’t work in this case, so Iaia established a relationship with a local strategic partner to satisfy those particular regulations. It’s all taken care of, instead of the expatriates and their employers having to scramble to find local coverage and other services on their own.

“We take a proactive approach with our members and engage with them before they even know they need our services.”

UnitedHealthcare Global makes legal and compliance a big part of its value proposition, Iaia says, and partners with clients and brokers to ensure all stakeholders are informed and aligned.

The work of Iaia’s team reaches all the way through to the consumer who is traveling abroad. “We take a proactive approach with our members and engage with them before they even know they need our services,” he says. UnitedHealthcare Global attempts to reach all of its members upon enrollment to provide pretrip information alerts about the countries they’re traveling to before they go. Within these alerts and calls, members receive critical information that allows them to better adapt and thrive in their new environments. Members receive information about health facilities, illness trends, country infrastructure concerns, and common crime schemes. UnitedHealthcare Global also provides information about local regulations that might impact members or the medical or pharmaceutical care they need to receive.

Iaia cites another example in Singapore where there are strict regulations on some commonly used prescription medications in the United States. Methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin, is considered a controlled substance in Singapore. Foreigners with a Ritalin prescription need to apply for prior approval from the Health Products Regulation Group within the Health Sciences Authority in Singapore before arriving.

The places experiencing the most regulatory change also happen to be where many global companies are expanding to right now. Iaia says that expats are adept at handling non-life-threatening health problems on their own, contacting UnitedHealthcare Global’s call center for routine assistance or working directly with local doctors. But if it’s a more serious health condition, there could be complications.

“Not only do you have a potential language barrier or different cultural norm, but the delivery of medical care in foreign countries might also be different from what people might be used to,” he says. “Gone are the days when just paying the claim was enough. Customers and members need assistance from start to finish, and the legal and regulatory framework in these countries dictates how we do what we do.”

“Gone are the days when just paying the claim was enough. Customers and members need assistance from start to finish, and the legal and regulatory framework in these countries dictates how we do what we do.”

UnitedHealthcare Global offers a twenty-four-hour call center and an Emergency Response Center staffed with experienced representatives who not only speak the local languages of whatever country members or clients call from, but who are also trained on local healthcare environments. Together with the company’s expert clinical management group, they can deal with any emergencies that arise and deal directly with the providers to ensure members get the best possible care.

The landscape is constantly changing, and the work is nonstop, Iaia says, but it’s absolutely rewarding because the end product serves customers and members.

Part of the lure for Iaia is that no two days are alike. Iaia and his team are responsible for providing full legal support and guidance for UnitedHealthcare Global’s businesses. This ranges from new market entry and licensing work to contracting. It also includes compliance, privacy, and sometimes litigation.

Iaia has built a strong legal team to help him get the job done, and he deliberately exposes them to as many parts of the business as possible so they can tackle just about any issue that might arise. That versatility is increasingly important as UnitedHealthcare Global’s products and services are offered on an integrated basis. Having the right mind-set is key to performing at a high level, and for Iaia and his team, that means taking a knowledge-first approach to tackle any problems they face.

“I make sure that each member of the team knows the nuts and bolts of our business as well as our businesspeople,” he says.

That means getting deep into the details and understanding how members use the organization’s products and services, how claims and IT systems work, where personnel are, and what the value proposition is.

With that knowledge, Iaia says, aligning with the principles of the business is much quicker and easier. Identifying the risks and grasping how things are trending can move faster as well, which is good because things have been changing faster than usual of late, both in the United States and abroad. “All countries are dealing with rising medical costs, mobility issues, and advancing technology, and it’s only going to continue to change,” he says.

But UnitedHealthcare Global clients shouldn’t worry. With Iaia and his team tracking everything and the organization offering a full suite of products and services, clients and members are covered around the world, no matter what happens.


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