• A description of the proposed professional activities has been filed with each program, department, or school that is funding the trip and each group has approved the trip in writing based on its feasibility and importance; additionally, the individual’s department chair and dean have also approved the trip in writing.
  • The faculty member, staff member, or graduate student has signed the Faculty and Staff Travel Waiver Form (end of the page here) indicating that he or she understands the risks involved in travel to this location and releasing the University from any liability;
  • The faculty member, staff member, or student has appropriate health insurance approved by the Office of Risk Management;
  • Evidence of compliance with a., b., and c. is on file with the Office of Risk Management.

"Appropriate health insurance" refers to the strong recommendation that faculty/staff purchase the same HTH Worldwide international insurance coverage that is required of study abroad participants. The cost, at less than $10/week, provides (with a $0 deductible)  direct-billing for routine care at pre-approved facilities abroad (and reimbursement for others), direct-billing for emergency care abroad (including surgeries), coverage for prescriptions, lab tests, or other required procedures, quality assurance/care management, and the repatriation of remains as well as medical and security/natural disaster evacuation arrangement/coverage (or re-booking of original ticket if medical treatment required the traveler to miss their return flight, but the condition is not serious to require medijet services). (Do note that I have negotiated increased coverage/benefits effective June 1, 2012. Updated information will be posted to the ORM's website at the end of the month).

Such precautions are strongly recommended because NU's HMO/PPO plans have limited applicability abroad. Overseas (Out-of-network), the PPO plan includes a $2000+  deductible/co-pay for any type of medical care received abroad. Also under the PPO plan, any expenditures above the plan's deductible/co-pay must be paid out of pocket by the patient, though reimbursement may be sought upon return to the U.S. The HMO plan does not cover any expenditures for non-emergency care abroad. Also under the HMO plan, emergency care must be paid out of pocket by the patient, though reimbursement may be sought upon return to the U.S. Both plans will cover the cost of medical evacuations by reimbursement only. (I have seen such costs range from $7000-60,000). There is no coverage for (or arrangement of) security or natural disaster evacuation.

Most importantly, my relationship with HTH spans a decade. For any NU traveler with HTH coverage, I have the ability to advocate on the traveler's behalf should they have concern about their care overseas. Through HTH, I can often facilitate the transfer or translation of medical records obtained abroad, and even arrange conference calls between a patent's family doctor and the treating physician abroad. Sometimes I am even able to negotiate coverage/services outside the covered benefits if not too costly, but meaningful to the patient. No such services are available to those traveling on the PPO or HMO plans.

While its up to each employee traveler to decide his/her own level of risk and coverage, given the short duration that most faculty/staff travel abroad, the cost-benefit analyst, should something serious occur abroad, is obvious. It is a particularly important consideration for anyone who may not have the cash reserves to cover extensive treatment abroad and wait for reimbursement, which can be lengthy. There are countries where treatment, even emergency care, will not be provided if payment is not assured by cash or an international insurance provider's Guarantee of Payment (GOP).

 

There are no institutional requirements for faculty, staff or graduate students traveling to non-Travel Warning locations under university sponsorship, but the following recommendations are made by the Office of Risk Management: 

 

  • Purchase of the same HTH Worldwide international insurance coverage that is required of study abroad participants. (See rationale above).
  • Registry in International SOS, a free security information service where you can enter flight plans, review country-specific security briefs, immunization requirements/recommendations, and sign up for email alerts. ISOS registry is not used to monitor faculty or staff travel. Information on travelers is sought when a serious or widespread emergency occurs abroad, such as the recent earthquake in Oaxaca, Mexico (where NU had two graduate students) or the recent coup in Mali (where according to ISOS we had no travelers). Our protocol is to reach out to such travelers to ascertain their status and arrange support services, if needed. If travelers do not register, we do not know to offer assistance.

Please note that the HTH enrollment and ISOS registry are required of all student travelers. The Study Abroad Office in collaboration with International Programs Development, the Buffet Center/GESI, and the Office of Undergraduate Research (through Peter Civetta) confirm that all their student participants adhere to these requirements. Currently there is no mechanism in place to ensure other students going overseas under some type of university sponsorship meet these requirements. Extensive effort will be made in the next academic year to educate students (and their faculty/staff sponsors) about these important steps, and to eventually develop a procedure where they can have access to the same information and support services the other students already receive.

Further questions regarding faculty/staff insurance abroad can be directed to Chris Johnson in the Office of Risk Management, cljohnson@northwestern.edu. Further questions regarding student insurance abroad (or other matters related to their health/safety abroad) can be directed to me, Julie Anne Friend, julie.friend@northwestern.edu.

 

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