Of late, more and more employers are opting for domestic medical travel programs for their employees, encouraging the latter to visit so called Centers of Excellence (COEs) for specific surgical procedures like those related to cardiac and orthopedic care. These COEs range from small surgical centers to high-end hospitals and offer employers these treatments for less than 50% of what the same would cost with traditional insurance plans.
This interest in domestic medical travel is fuelled by increasing health premium costs, reduced transparency and greater awareness of how medical costs and quality can vary from one hospital to another (and one region to another).
Accordingly, here are some of the more recent medical travel programs that were initiated.
Wal-Mart joined hands with six healthcare organizations in the US in 2013 in order to expand its COE program to specific spine and heart surgeries, including transplants. Boeing offered its employees the chance to travel to Cleveland Clinic for heart surgery and other complex heart procedures in 2012.
Employees visiting COEs for medical treatments can get quality care for lower costs. Employers usually waive off co-pays, offer incentives and even cover the travel related costs to encourage their employees to visit these COEs. Those who do not wish to travel overseas or have never been to another country before also favor traveling to another region within the country.
Patients also have more choices with COEs, with most of them having the power to decide the course of their own treatment.
The effects of ACA
The Affordable Care Act has generated the need for patient centric and cost effective care. As such, many employers are investing heavily in preventive health care programs which are more transparent and offer better quality of service for patients.
With the ACA, restrictions on ore-existing conditions are waived off, making insurance premiums the same for all individuals. This would automatically lead to an increase in insurance costs, thereby encouraging more people to opt for domestic medical travel.
Many employers and employees prefer to stay within the US rather than traveling abroad for medical treatments, thus prompting the need for domestic medical travel. In this case, patients feel more comfortable within the borders of their country and have a say in the security, safety and quality of the treatment that they desire.
Rather than paying per service, employers would be prompted to pay for quality care. They can thus reduce costs related to unnecessary surgeries. They can enlist the help of COEs to identify employees who are about to have surgery in the coming days and provide them with the education they need. This would in turn help the employer anticipate costs and take appropriate action when needed.
Opportunities vs. challenges
Domestic medical travel has its share of hindrances that need to be crossed. The first roadblock happens to be insurers who are not that cooperative in providing too many choices for employers in choosing the best hospital in terms of cost and quality.
Opportunities however, are aplenty with domestic medical travel. In addition to a significant reduction in health care costs, employers often encourage their employees to opt for COEs by offering them several incentives. Expanding its base to cover more conditions like diabetes is also another potential opportunity for domestic medical travel.
Employers in the US are increasingly opting for domestic medical travel in order to curb health care costs. Most of them have joined hands with COEs to offer quality treatment options for their employees at comparatively lower costs. In spite of a few hindrances, domestic medical travel as great potential to grow and could possibly expand to include conditions like diabetes. As such, these proven health strategies by the employer would surely pay off.