More California Employers Offering Cross-Border Health Plans
At least 150,000 California workers are enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans that offer services in Mexico, insurers say, and the number of firms offering such plans is increasing, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Such plans -- offered by Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Mexico-based SIMNSA -- can cost employers and workers half as much as traditional U.S. coverage. The option also "provides a more convenient, culturally comfortable environment for some of the thousands of Mexican citizens working in San Diego County," the Union-Tribune reports.
Cross-border plans have been available for decades through agricultural organizations, but the plans have become more widely available and popular since California in 1998 and 1999 passed legislation to legalize and regulate cross-border HMOs.
Blue Shield and Health Net offer plans to U.S. and Mexican citizens, while SIMNSA offers plans only to Mexican citizens. Mexican health care providers are not subject to California standards, but physicians participating in the plans must be licensed in Mexico and meet any specialty board requirements. The companies regularly audit the providers, and patients can file complaints through California regulators.
The Department of Managed Health Care said it receives few complaints about cross-border health plans, the Union-Tribune reports (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/16).
KQED's "The California Report" on Friday reported on such health plans, including Access Baja offered by Blue Shield. The segment includes comments from:
- Peter Duncan, vice president of mid- and large-group sales for Blue Shield of California;
- Rosemarie Marshall Johnson, anesthesiologist and California member of the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission;
- An uninsured California resident who receives health care in Mexico; and
- A California resident who receives health care in Mexico through Access Baja but would prefer to receive care in the U.S. (Espinoza, "The California Report," KQED, 10/14).