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Economics & Investments

Global Healthcare and Wellness ~ An Evolving World of Benefits

Economics & Investments

In a global market environment experiencing exponential growth, corporations with employees all around the globe, corporate executives have the task of researching, evaluating and implementing a Global Healthcare and Wellness Strategy that will cover the lives of their workers wherever they may be situated in the world. IBIS Advisors Co., Discovery Communications, Citigroup and Mary Kay were among the corporations that presented their model International Healthcare & Benefits Plans and Wellness Programs, addressing the compensation and benefits packages their employees receive in an international market.


Multinational companies comprised of employees working in multiple countries require quality healthcare as local nationals and expatriates. For international employers, finding the right health insurance and receiving high quality of healthcare for their employees is a top priority.

Citigroup As one of the largest financial services firms in the world, Citigroup is doing business in more than 140 countries with some 200 million customer accounts. Justine Mitsock, Manager of International Benefits for CitiGroup stated, “Citi has almost 260,000 employees worldwide; the goal is to provide a more seamless benefits experience. Employees are included in the decision-making process and may choose when to spend or save their healthcare dollars. Employees and their families are encouraged to take more responsibility for their health.” CitiGroup reduces costs by improving employee health in conjunction with a thoughtful benefits design. In addition, Wellness Plans are also widely supported as a preventative measure of cost control and conducive to better performance and a healthier lifestyle.

Mary Kay

As one of the major direct sellers of skin care and color cosmetics in the world, Mary Kay achieved $2.5 billion in wholesale sales worldwide in 2009. Mary Kay products are sold in over 25 markets and their global sales force exceeds two million. Muna Almualiem, International Benefits Manager for Mary Kay, shared their focus on understanding the driving factors. Separate unit costs and utilization by service, review of benefit design, and comparison of current and prior period results as well as one of market or insurer portfolio results are among the measures in place at Mary Kay within their International Benefits Plans. Interventions based on specific cost drivers are developed, global healthcare trends are constantly monitored and ongoing improvement of the Global Wellness Program offered is a priority.

Discovery Communications

“With distribution in over 170 countries, 715 million cumulative subscribers, 431 million households and content in 35 languages, Discovery’s global reach is extensive, ” said Anthony Amato, Vice President of Compensation & Benefits, Discovery Communications. Currently allocating a Global Benefits Budget totaling at $42 million, this multinational corporation home to 1,156 Employees in 22 countries offers 16 Retirement Plans in 10 Countries with $230 million in assets, 188 Disability Cases (US), 308 Leave Requests (US) and 63 Global Relocations Annually. Offering over 100 benefit plans has created the need for over 70 vendors and/or providers worldwide.

Discovery takes a holistic approach to wellness as well. In the US, Discovery Communications contracted with a provider to operate workplace clinics staffed with physicians and nurses. Discovery estimates it has saved $1 million a year since starting its clinic in 2004. Discovery believes healthy employees are productive employees and stress reduction improves overall health. Accordingly, the company focuses on helping employees juggle their responsibilities of work and home through their programs for employees at home and abroad.

United Health International As the global arm division of UnitedHealth Group, UnitedHealth International is one of the largest and most diverse health care companies in the United States. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, UnitedHealth Group is uniquely focused on the health industry, as opposed to other companies that manage a broad portfolio of insurance products. UHI brings UnitedHealth Group’s wealth of experience, skills and tools to the international marketplace, which is seeing a dramatic increase in health care costs, demand and private markets to insure for those costs.

UnitedHealth International UHI offers solutions for a wide range of needs for US expatriates, US inpatriates and third country nationals, offering all with the assurance of affordability, quality, usability, and access that is the hallmark of UnitedHealth Group.

“Medicine is increasingly and globally recognized as a science, and therefore subject to its laws”, said Ori Karev, Chief Growth Officer, UnitedHealth Global, going on to share the “ABC” drivers for Globalization of Health Care Insurance:

Also influencing global healthcare, its presentation and delivery are factors such as technological advances, applications and infrastructure.

Mr. Karev added, “Medicine is increasingly and globally recognized as a science, and therefore subject to its laws. Health care delivery and administration is a process, and is therefore manageable. The risk of financing health care across populations is well managed/financed in developed countries; less so in emerging economies.”

Blue Shield of California Cross-Border Healthcare

Blue Shield of California is California’s third-largest health plan with 3.5 million members and an annual revenue of $9.7 billion. As a Not-for-profit mutual benefit corporation, Blue Shield donated $125 million over the last four years to the Blue Shield of California Foundation to fund nonprofit organizations which improve access to quality healthcare in California.

Nearly one million people cross the border to Mexico to seek health care in a one- year period, of which half are Mexican immigrants. An estimated 150,000 are insured through private health plans in the U.S and Mexico. The two major gateways into Baja California, Mexico are Tijuana and Mexicali. Blue Shield of California’s Access Baja was implemented in 1999, operating the same way as traditional U.S. health plans. In order to qualify for a Blue Shield Access Baja plan, employees and/or their dependants must reside or work within the service area, which is approximately within 50 miles of the Mexican/ U.S. Border.

Rates are lower in Mexico due to the lower healthcare costs as well as cost of living in these areas in comparison with patient home country. Blue Shield Access Baja plan contracts with providers that are certified and meet quality standards and members have the same rights as any other HMO member in California.

Jose Loazia, Senior Network Manager for Blue Shield of California offered helpful “Now is the time to seek and embrace accreditation. Develop and Protect the Brand, as perception is everything!”


In looking at the growing trend towards providing benefit plans, CitiGroup raised a significant understanding about a general Global Benefits Philosophy which stands true in the face of perpetual healthcare reform. At the forefront, it is most important to provide a level of protection to all employees in a fashion which allow the employees to “think like owners, act like owners and be owners.”

In effect, it is most important to provide the level of meaningful benefits that employees cause employees to take charge of their healthcare needs and live better lives. Employees should be included in the decision making process to choose when and where they wish to spend their healthcare dollars and therefore encouraging their families to take more responsibility for their health.

The 3rd Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress served as a platform for these industry experts to share their company philosophies, provide insight into their mission and commitment to providing a Global Healthcare and Wellness to their employees and their dependants. Realities, opportunities, and obstacles were presented and left all in attendance with a comprehensible approach from which to build upon in their own way.

It is quite clear that Global Healthcare and Wellness will continue to grow as more companies continue to embrace this global environment, employers seek viable options to manage costs and patients invest valuable time in education on their alternatives for healthcare around the world.

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