At the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, we’ve written before about medical tourism. I’m open to any options that help to drive down the cost of health care in the US, including opening up worldwide competition. But while a trip to Thailand might sound wonderful when you’re healthy, it would likely be a bit more daunting if you’re sick, or in pain, or unable to walk because you need a new hip.
Enter domestic medical tourism. Large employers are increasingly interested in networks that allow their employees access to hospitals all across the country, providing a much wider range of cost and quality of health care options for their employees. Large employers have bargaining power, and some have already struck deals with foreign hospitals, which they’re able to use as leverage to bargain down the prices at domestic hospitals. In some cases, the employers are offering reduced out of pocket expenses to employees who are willing to travel within the US to receive care for a lower price than a local hospital offers.
While it’s not likely that an employer will find a hospital in the US willing to replace a knee for the price a hospital in Thailand would charge, there is plenty of geographic variation in health care expenses, and domestic medical tourism can provide employers in expensive areas access to lower priced health care.
Of course there are plenty of people who are too sick to travel, or who would just rather be closer to home during their care. But in the current economy, my guess is plenty of people needing surgery would be willing to fly for a few hours (on their employer’s dime) and have the procedure done in another city, in order to avoid having to pay their health insurance deductible (or whatever incentive their employer offers).