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Multinationals Taking Global Approach to Health Care

April 15, 2010
Related Topics: Global Business Issues, Benefit Design and Communication, Health and Wellness, Latest News

An increasing number of U.S.-based multinational employers are taking a global approach to address rising health care costs, as the same conditions afflicting their domestic employees—stress, chronic disease and obesity—are beginning to take their toll on their non-U.S. working populations as well.

While only about 26 percent of multinational companies have global health care strategies in place, an equal percentage plan to implement one by 2012, according to a survey conducted by New York-based Towers Watson.

And those with global health care strategies in place are shifting the focus from mitigating health care costs to prevention, as chronic conditions, stress and behavioral issues drive medical inflation outside of the U.S., the survey found.

Eighty-three percent of companies indicate that stress has a high or moderate impact on their health care costs and workforce productivity, while 77 percent say chronic conditions have an impact and 63 percent attribute high health care costs and lower productivity to obesity.

“Workforce Health Strategies: A Multinational Perspective” also found that 77 percent multinationals offer employer-sponsored health care coverage overseas either in lieu of or in addition to publicly provided programs.

However, the tools used to manage health risks globally are not as developed as they are in the U.S., said Nicole Serfontein, senior international consultant at Towers Watson, in a press release. Survey respondents said non-U.S. markets lack available or reliable health care cost data (51 percent), health care products and services (44 percent) and desired health care vendors (39 percent).

As a result, only 40 percent of survey respondents provide case management programs in most or all countries; only 25 percent provide disease management programs in all or most countries; just over 30 percent offer health promotion, health screenings and behavioral health programs in most or all countries; and only 25 percent provide health risk assessments in most or all countries.

Conducted in late 2009, the online survey included responses from 106 organizations that have at least 500 employees and significant business operations in more than one country. More than 90 percent of the participating companies are based in North America and manage, on average, 25 health care programs and operate in 20 countries around the world.

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Filed by Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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