In June of last year, I wrote an article entitled, “Opt-out as a way in: Implementing Medical Tourism into Workers’ Compensation“. In that article. I discussed how the state of Oklahoma has enacted an opt-out program for workers’ compensation. David De Paolo wrote last week that employers in Oklahoma are excited about policies being offered by three (soon to be four) insurance companies that meet the minimum standards the Oklahoma opt-out law requires. David said that this is a very exciting time in the evolution of workers’ compensation. We have a system that is over 100 years old and has been morphing, particularly in the last 20 years, to cope with changes in work and the economy, and many feel those changes have been negative. He goes on to add that the Oklahoma experiment is bold. Whether it is the beginning of a trend remains to be seen – but it is clear that the early sentiment reflects a sizable appetite for something new. As I concluded in my previous post on the subject:
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.
If employers are really looking for something even more bolder than opt-out programs, they might want to consider lobbying their legislators to change the statutes to allow them to offer medical tourism as an option to their employees. What they will get in return, is lower cost health care at the same or better quality, and if their workforce is increasingly Latino, they will benefit from receiving care in the best facilities in their home or similar countries. That would really be a bold move.