Last December, in my post, The Stars Aligned, I mentioned a study released at that time that looked at the Texas model of an opt-out program for workers’ compensation, and the proposal that failed in the Oklahoma legislature last year. My LinkedIn connection, Peter Rousmaniere recently released a new study on the Oklahoma opt-out program that was recently enacted by the Oklahoma legislature and signed by the governor, and what he reported about it has significant implications for implementing medical tourism into workers’ compensation.
The report was published today by Sedgwick CMS, and in his email on RiskList, a group I belong to on Yahoo Groups, Peter stated that opt-out right now is rapidly transitioning from a marginal, obscure concept to a viable, legitimate product in the employee benefits family with a compelling value proposition for every state.
Peter further defined the value proposition as follows: The value proposition is that it by conforming work injury benefits to established employee benefit practices, and thus releasing it from the traditional statutory model, worker benefits can increase and employer premiums can significantly decline.
When I contacted Peter earlier today to clarify what this means, and whether this means that medical tourism could be implemented into workers’ comp as an employee benefit, his response to me was that it makes medical tourism viable for work injury benefits, as employer has largely unfettered discretion over selection of medical provider.
What this means for medical tourism and workers’ comp is this, as more states enact opt-out programs for employers in their states, the likelihood that an employer would chose to send their employees abroad for medical treatment increases. Considering what I have already said in earlier posts about the changing demographics of the US labor force and the rise of medical tourism destinations in Latin America and the Caribbean, this possibility is closer to becoming a reality because more states will have given their employers a choice to stay in the statutory system with its complexity and its legal barriers to implementing medical tourism, or to allow them to add workers’ compensation medical care as another employee benefit which they control and for which they can offer medical tourism as an option since they would no longer be subjected to state rules and regulations concerning medical care for injured workers.