Companies To Market Medical Tourism Services to Employers
Several small companies that arrange "medical tourism" -- in which participants travel abroad to purchase lower-cost health care services -- plan to market services to U.S. employers, USA Today reports.
For example, MedRetreat, which arranges medical tourism, next year plans to launch a division to market services to employers. Rajesh Rao -- CEO of IndUShealth, which also arranges medical tourism -- said, "Companies have reached that point of being pinned to the wall faster than we thought."
In addition to companies that arrange medical tourism, Health Net offers health plans to individuals and employers in California that allow members to receive most of their health care in Mexico, as well as some care in Southern California; Blue Shield of California offers similar plans, although only to individuals.
In Florida, United Group Programs, which offers administrative services to self-insured employers, has begun to promote surgeries at a Thailand hospital, and West Virginia Del. Ray Canterbury (R) earlier this year introduced a bill that would allow state employees to fly first class to hospitals abroad with a family member or friend, recover in a four-star hotel and receive additional sick days and bonuses.
According to USA Today, few employers "have signed onto the idea of medical tourism yet, some benefit consultants think the trend will soon take off."
Arnold Milstein, chief physician at Mercer Health & Benefits, said, "This is going to spread much more widely."
However, Mike Taylor, a principal at Towers Perrin, said, "Employers will be very cautious about this" because of regulatory, safety and liability concerns, adding, "Smaller employers will try it. The big employers will wait" (Appleby/Schmit, USA Today, 7/27).