Gone are the days when the term, “medical tourism,” is used in the same sentence as a “botched surgery.” Nowadays, the definition of medical tourism has expanded. Patients don’t have to leave the country to be considered a medical tourist. A more recently popularized form of health travel is called domestic medical tourism. Whether a patient decides to leave a state in search of the best doctor, an employee is sent to an out-of-state and top-ranked facility as part of an arranged agreement or a senior executive is sent to a clinic specializing in executive physical exams, this is all called domestic medical travel.
Because of the current and potential increase in healthcare costs, both self-insured and traditionally insured employers are investigating strategies for reducing expenditures related to employee benefit offerings and, at the same time, keep workers healthy. Many of these employers are taking a closer look at the health of their employees and a need for corporate wellness programs.
Corporate wellness calls to mind programs that encourage employees to go to the gym and eat healthier. That is part of wellness, but some companies go even further, adding gyms in the office, offering fitness classes to assist in reducing stress, placing healthy food in building vending machines and, in some countries outside of the United States, improving the quality of drinking water or educating employees on how to properly store perishable goods at home.
Corporate wellness programs are now in place to improve the overall health culture of employees and their families. One of the more costly, yet valuable program offerings is when a company sends a high-level executive for a physical. From $1,500 -$6,000 per examination, the price may be a little high, but the executive leaves with a complete health evaluation including diagnostics and appropriate education to modify risks. Physical exams can prevent health problems before they start and may also safeguard a company from losing a key employee to severe illness for an extended period.
Some of the more popular corporate wellness strategies emerged a few years back when major companies partnered with leading hospitals including Cleveland Clinic and Lowes Companies, Inc., and Johns Hopkins and Pepsi Co. These alliances send employees to specialized medical facilities where top-notch treatment and diagnosis is available. With appropriate and timely diagnosis and treatment, an employee is likely to return to work sooner. Bundled rates negotiated between the hospital and employer also save both the company and employee money.
Self-funded (or self-insured) corporate medical plans, in which the employer assumes financial risk for providing healthcare benefits to employees, are expected to grow in response to healthcare reform. Instead of obtaining company medical coverage from an insurance carrier, a self-funding employer chooses a plan of benefit programs and claims liability for medical claims up to a pre-set level. As the number of self-insured companies increases, medical tourism becomes a viable option for employers who want to reduce healthcare benefit costs. Employees uncomfortable with travelling overseas for medical procedures and treatments may be more likely to consider domestic medical tourism.
Education is Key
While domestic medical tourism is a sound option for some larger companies, others may benefit from savings by sending employees to international destinations. The key to successful implementation of a medical tourism program is to properly educate employees about options, ease comfort levels and boost confidence about the quality of care inside international hospitals.
Since 2009 and still in 2016, the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress is fully integrated with the Employer Healthcare & Benefits Congress, where hospital administrators, insurance company executives and employers can network and form domestic medical tourism strategies that increase patient flows and eliminate unnecessary costs.