Monday, November 19, 2012

MedTourism close to home

One of the issues we've had with the Not So Vaunted Health System© is that health care is becoming more scarce. As providers scramble for a way to stay in business, the cash-only model of health care delivery seems to be growing in popularity.

On the other side of the ledger, employers looking for ways to rein in health care costs are thinking outside the box, as well:

"This year, grocery giant Kroger Co. has flown nearly two dozen workers to Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine and several other hospitals across the U.S. for hip, knee or spinal-fusion surgeries in an effort to save money and improve care."

As Bob reported last week, Wal-Mart is offering its employees free heart and spine surgery at a half dozen health centers of its own.

A major challenge is, as we've so long lamented, the lack of consistency and transparency in the cost of health care. Compounding the problem is the fact that there are separate fees for each service, so that a patient receives a bill from the hospital, the surgeon, the anesthetist, and so on. So-called "global billing" hasn't really happened, so employers are taking a cue from the cable and phone companies, putting together "bundles" that can help hold costs down and make price negotiations more meaningful.

As Rand Corporation's senior policy analyst Susan Ridegly puts it:

"We want to stop paying by the widget in healthcare."

Well said.
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