Every citizen requires health care – no matter where they reside or what industry they are a part of. Unfortunately, mining is renowned for being one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Cave-ins, toxic air, extreme temperatures, and explosions are some of the hazardous occurrences.
Furthermore, let’s look at statistics in terms of how many accidents occur per year and how the number shave elevated over time. The need for insurance is non-negotiable.
Global statistics on mining accidents
According to Statista, global insights and statistics platform, there were 60 mining accidents in Congo in August 2012 – and within the year 2020, a total of expatriates working in the Canadian mining industry amounted to approximately 377 000 miners. Of course, these statistics vary worldwide, but there is no question that miners, particularly those working in foreign countries, should have the necessary health insurance.
David elaborates by saying that the global mining industry has faced many challenges recently. And everything from employee shortages, commodity price fluctuations, conflicts, political uncertainties, environmental and technical difficulties, covid and a host of other challenges require that mining employers protect their most valuable asset, their people.
“One of the most important parts of a mining operation is to meet their duty of care by providing adequate health coverage for both the local workforce and the expatriate or foreign-trained workers operating at the mine sites, “says Tompkins, “The mines that we work with want to provide cost-effective medical coverage for their expatriates as the local coverage may not be available, or medical treatment may be sub-standard.”
Why healthcare for miners matters
When asked why insurance has been developed explicitly for miners, Tompkins says that some insurance providers that the organisation works with have developed health plans for mining operations in specific regions such as Africa, with plans that are tailored to their market requirements. However, (organisation) works with even larger and more recognised global insurance companies that can quote excellent international health plans to meet the needs of multinational mining companies operating in Africa and beyond.
“Most mining clients will provide a comprehensive global medical plan that will cover the ex-pat mining employee both in the country that they are stationed in but also globally, excluding the USA or including the United States if the employee is an American citizen. “ says Tompkins
“There are also plans that can provide regional coverage to cover employees in Africa only, Africa plus Europe and globally. Covering the employee on-site and when back home or on leave is considered standard.”
According to Tompkins, most local mining employers will be covered by a locally-sourced health plan. Still, some mining clients will source an international plan for local employees or place a “key local national” on the ex-pat benefit plan, especially if the employee should be covered for medical treatment outside the host country of mine.
“We find that most health plans for mining employees will provide a base of hospital-related expenses, then add on out-patient care, wellness, employee assistance and more,” explains Tompkins.
Tompkins elaborates, Perhaps the most essential coverage that will be included or sold as a supplement is medical evacuation coverage. For most mining, local medical care in many African countries may be limited. A severe illness may necessitate a medical evacuation to seek medical care. The insurance company and its assistance provider will need to coordinate medical evacuation.
Healthcare considerations for expatriates’ family
Another consideration in developing a health plan for a mining operation is to consider whether or not the dependents and partners of the employee will be covered. Of course, if the family is in the work assignment country with the employee, it is a given that the dependents will be covered. Still, in many cases, the family members will be in the employee’s home country and may or may not be covered by the policy. So again, it is a question of cost and how attractive management wants to make the policy to attract increasing scarce and valuable mining talent.
Tompkins says that the most common claims that expatriates make are out-patient charges such as doctor’s appointments and prescriptions and paramedical claims such as physio, considering that the most prevalent medical support is required for illnesses and accidents.
‘Hospital and medical evacuation claims are less frequent but present the highest financial risk for a mining operator and hence the requirement to have excellent coverage,” says Tompkins.
Challenges expatriates face
There are several challenges that expatriates face when it comes to healthcare; most notably, this includes the ability to submit a claim via the most extensive possible medical network possible both at or near the mine site and back home. Tompkins says that it is vital to choose an international health plan with an extensive medical provider network where employees can seek medical treatment at the hospital without working with a global insurer to guarantee payment. “Also, expatriates should have access to excellent treatment advice and perhaps a second opinion such as where to seek the best treatment,” insists Tompkins.
Submitting claims online
Most small claims outside a hospital can be submitted online or via a smartphone app for reimbursement. One of the most essential features of a global mining plan is to cover pre-existing medical conditions, as this is the number one way to get out of paying a claim.
“If there are enough employees to be covered, there should be enough risk to be spread around to cover existing medical conditions fully,” says Tompkins.
Healthcare insurance services and support
“We act as the independent insurance consultant or broker to help examine the global insurance requirements for our mining clients operating worldwide, including in Africa,” explains Tompkins.
Furthermore, TFG Global Insurance can run RFPs and obtain quotes from the market based on the unique requirements and budget of the mining client. After presenting the proposals and recommendations, the organisation can help implement a plan and negotiate with the insurer at renewal while providing unlimited advocacy and service during the policy year. In most cases, these types of organisations are paid by the insurance company and can work with clients around the globe.
Overall, Tompkins believes that to attract and retain mining talent, mining management and human resources staff need to have a global medical plan that not only meets their duty of care but also provides a comprehensive medical, dental and evacuation plan to protect the employee at the mine site and back home. “Most global benefit plans for mining employees posted in Africa will also provide additional services and coverage such as telehealth, employee assistance programs, mental health and wellness, life coverage, accidental benefits, dental and disability coverage, concludes Tompkins.