Globiana Founder and CEO Elena Mosko sits down with Kelley Filice Jensen of Filice Insurance to understand how employers can help employees relocating to the United States master the complicated system of health care and health insurance that can be so different from their home country. Kelley and Elena share more than just professional collaboration. They love books, and can be found pouring over their latest book club selection, while pouring a traditional glass of Californian wine, on Thursdays each month.

Our subscribers tell us that of all the adjustments that they make to the United States, health care is one of the hardest and most confusing changes for their families, why?

Because of the way health care is “purchased” in this country. We have a much different system of paying for doctors and hospitals in the U.S. than much of the world.

What do you mean?

Well, we pay for our health care with health insurance plans, and, for the majority of Americans, these insurance plans are paid for by their employers. This is true even after the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has taken effect. This means that employers often make the first decision regarding health care for families, and that is, how to pay for it.

How do employers educate employees about how their health insurance works?

Ideally, the employee benefits consultant that sells the insurance works with employers to educate employees on health care and health insurance. And we do this in many different ways: Health fairs, educational nights, videos, company benefits websites, phone apps, and of course, pamphlets and collateral. Employers are always looking for new ways to engage employees. We even have one broker that starts all his open enrollments with stand-up comedy! Anything we can think of to help employees learn the esoteric set of terms and conditions of health insurance.

What is the most frustrating thing for employers?

It can be very frustrating to put so much energy into campaigns about health insurance, only to have employees and their families not engage or learn what their health insurance is about and how it impacts the health care choices they make. People tend to have money taken out of their paychecks for a company sponsored health plan, but not learn anything about the plan until there is some sort of emergency, then panic sets in and everyone is frantically trying to learn their health insurance.

What advice does Filice have for employers with employees new to the U.S.?

Many times employee benefits consultants will provide materials that have been translated into native languages as a way to educate employees, but be wary. Ask if the materials have been translated or reviewed by someone in the health insurance business. Health insurance terms often do not translate easily into native languages and may not give employees or their families the most necessary, complete and accurate information. Also, request that someone is available to meet with employees or their spouse in person.

What advice do you have for families new to the U.S.?

Be proactive! Do not wait until someone needs to go to the doctor to understand your health benefits. Ask HR to help you understand your benefits. Spouses can get involved too. Make an appointment with the benefits consultants your Company uses to get questions answered. And, if the education you are receiving about health insurance is not sufficient, make sure to let HR know.

What requests from employees new to the U.S. might an HR team not have anticipated?

Extended family. Many times, mothers and fathers or other family caregivers will move with the family or stay in the U.S. for extended periods of time. What is the best way for them to acquire health insurance if they cannot be considered dependents eligible to participate in the company sponsored health plan?

How does Filice help HR teams accommodate these extended families?

We have an individual insurance team that is certified by Covered CA to sell such health plans.

What about Covered CA, what do people new to the U.S. need to know about Covered CA?

Covered CA is a good option for anyone in the family that cannot be on the employer sponsored plan. People new to the U.S. will need to have their immigration status handy and they must be mindful of open enrollment dates and qualifying events for purchasing individual plans.