What if your employer paid you to have that knee surgery in India? How about that carpal tunnel correction in Thailand? Or your hip replacement in Singapore?
Sound far-fetched? It’s not:
“With US medical costs out of control, companies like Blue Ridge Paper Products of Canton, N.C., see outsourcing as an employee benefit. The carrot? The patient would get to take a family member and then pocket some of the firm's substantial savings.”
“Medical Tourism” has become big business. The idea is that folks can travel to a foreign country, receive medical care equal to (or potentially better than) services available here, and still save money (even factoring in travel expenses). Companies like Blue Ridge Paper have determined that, by encouraging their employees to go this route, the company and the employee save money.
I’m not so sure:
For one thing, such expenses are not going to be eligible for reimbursement under a qualified plan (HSA, HRA, FSA, etc). For another, what about accountability? For all the grief we hear about malpractice insurance rates here in the good ol’ U S of A, at least (most of) our providers have it. Will the same be true of Dr Singh in Bombay? Don’t know. And what about complications?
“A Rhode Island woman died in India after traveling there for cosmetic surgery that she believed was too costly and difficult to obtain at home.”
The single mother of three apparently died of a blood clot (a not uncommon complication). She did, however, save almost $16,000 by undergoing the surgery overseas. Where’s the gecko when you need him?
According to Time magazine, this business is booming:
“Trehan [a renowned robotic cardiac surgeon] plans to launch next year, in partnership with GE, the first installment of a vast, $250 million specialty Escorts hospital complex near New Delhi that will feature luxury suites, a hotel and swank restaurants for patients and their families. "We will be the Mayo Clinic of the East," he says. Max Healthcare is also planning a specialty complex in New Delhi.”
Whether these types of facilities will begin seriously impacting US providers remains, of course, to be seen. And we also know that there is currently a large supply (foreign facilities and providers) with little demand (it’s still somewhat of a novelty). But if and or when that changes, and demand begins to mount, it will be interesting to see if those low, low prices will stick.
So far, I haven’t had any of my groups (or prospects) ask me about this; be interesting to see if that changes.