Monthly Archives: January 2017

Trump Esta Loco: What it May Mean for Cross-Border Healthcare

In picking a fight with Mexico over the building of a wall on the US/Mexico border, the current illegitimate occupant of the Oval Office is not only threatening the relationship with our nearest neighbor to the South, but with our number two trading partner, as the following stats point out for 2016:

2016 : U.S. trade in goods with Mexico
Total 2016 Exports: 211,848.7
Imports: 270,647.2
Net: -58,798.6

Source: https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c2010.html

By threatening to slap a 20% import tax on goods from Mexico, including his ties, this so-called businessman, will hurt the very farmers who voted for him, as well as the workers who buy their household goods from Walmart and other low-cost outlets, as many parts or food items are made or grown in Mexico. When I spoke at a medical tourism conference in Reynosa in 2014, we drove along the border area where the maquiladoras are located and saw that one of them makes frozen food that is sold across the border. Want to pay 20% more for that frozen TV dinner?

Then there is all that cerveza and tequila and mescal, not to mention avocados and guacamole that will cost more. Stay very thirsty my friends, because it will cost you more to drink with the most interesting man in the world, and all thanks to the least interesting man in the world.

What then does this mean for cross-border medical care?

If Herr Trump gets his way, not only will Mexican goods get more expensive, but if we get into a trade war, look for costs of medical care south of the border to go up as well, or even slow to a crawl or not at all. There is a hospital being built in Tijuana with the assistance of Scripps Health, and as I’ve written about in the past, the Insurance Company of the West already writes workers’ comp policies to include cross-border healthcare for their insured’s whose employees live in Mexico, but work in California.

Since the passage of NAFTA, trade between the US and Mexico has increased, and the towns along the border have benefitted from it. Back then, the talk of building a NAFTA superhighway was met with strong and fierce resistance (I was living in Texas at the time), but I realized that we already had one. It’s called Interstate 35, and runs from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, as does Interstate 5 on the West Coast.

In two earlier posts, I discussed a case in Arizona where the injured worker received two benefits, one from Mexico and one from Arizona (https://richardkrasner.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/nafta-work-comp-and-cross-border-medical-care-a-legal-view/) and (https://richardkrasner.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/nafta-work-comp-and-cross-border-medical-care-a-legal-view-update/).

So before you book that trip to Cancun for your tummy tuck or face lift, check to see if there is a 20% tax imposed on your flight, hotel, food, etc., from either the US or Mexican governments. If so, thank the orange-haired son of an orangutan.

donaldtrump-orangutan

Advertisements

All Quiet on the Medical Tourism Front

It’s been a while since I posted anything on medical travel, so you will forgive me for taking liberties with the title of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about the First World War.

I guess the lull can be attributed to the shock of realizing that the current occupant of the White House is totally unfit and may be reckless, so the world is holding its collective breath to see what happens.

Or, it could be that you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by that, I mean, what will happen to the Affordable Care Act now that he has signed an executive order to dismantle it.

This much we do know. What we don’t know is will the Republicans in Congress repeal it completely, or will they replace parts of it. And what does you-know-who want? Canadian-style health care, as some have suggested he favors? And we also know that his nominee for Health and Human Services is against the ACA, and the Speaker of the House wants to kill Medicare and Medicaid.

Your guess is as good as mine. But whatever happens, it is certain that the industry needs to be prepared, because once people lose their coverage, they will need alternatives to high cost medical care here.

A total repeal would be catastrophic for health care in this country. Replacing it with something worse will also be bad for the health care industry, but may offer a way for medical travel to finally get a hearing with the American people, at least those who can afford to go abroad after losing their ACA coverage.

Those covered under Medicaid when their states expanded coverage will be the ones to lose the most, since they are the poorest and sickest. Those who purchased coverage through the exchanges and paid lower premiums than those who paid higher premiums, may be right for medical travel, if the industry goes after them.

Predictions are that should the ACA be repealed, premiums for everyone will go up. So, it is imperative that the industry be ready, willing, and able to handle the influx of new patients, and not just for boutique procedures and expensive treatments.

I said this once before, and I will say it again, the market will not come to you; you must go to the market. You must show Americans that there is an alternative to high cost care in the US, and for obvious reasons, only those locations within a three-hour flight will be possible.

BTW, if any of you need someone to work on a project for medical travel between the US and your country, let me know. You know me by now, so don’t be a stranger.

Fam Tours for Self-Insured Employers

The subject of medical travel for self-insured employers is one that this blog has rarely discussed from the point of view of the medical travel facility.

Previous posts here have discussed a possible scenario for medical travel by self-insured employers under workers’ comp, the experience of one company that did so for its employees under their group health plan, and why self-insured employers are failing to adopt medical travel, as well as other posts that briefly mentioned self-insured employers.

Yet, at no time has this reviewer, in the position of content writer, ever discussed how the medical travel facilities can market their services to potential self-insured customers.

A new book by Maria Todd, her sixteenth in fact, does exactly that. Organizing Medical Tourism Site Inspections for Self-Insured Employers is a well-written manual for medical travel facilities seeking to highlight the services they offer by hosting site inspections, or more colloquially known as “fam tours,” or familiarizing tours.

Note: This writer had participated in only one fam tour to medical facilities when I spoke at a medical tourism conference in Mexico in 2014.

Knowing the Customer

Dr. Todd’s book focuses on the ways medical travel facilities can know their customers by knowing which self-insured employers are more likely to develop a medical travel program for their plan beneficiaries, and the criteria the Plan Administrators will look for to engage their services and the conditions under which such travel is possible.

One example given is if flying time to a medical tourism destination is less than three hours by plane. For American workers, who have US passports, longer distances would eliminate travel to parts of Asia, the Middle East, parts of South America, and Russia. Such locations would be possible if the employees were working there or nearby, and they were the closest facilities available.

She also discusses what will attract multinational employers who have workers around the world to select facilities that can handle industrial accidents, as well as general health and rehabilitative services. Some employers may be self-insured for their domestic employees, but purchase an insurance cover called an International Private Medical Insurance, or “IPMI.”

Selling Solutions

To educate hospital executives and managers on how to sell solutions to Plan Administrators, Dr. Todd includes a chapter on a topic she says executives and managers often do not consider important.

The chapter focuses on what not to say or do when conducting a site inspection. You, as the seller might consider certain areas of your facility important to highlight, or is one that you take pride in, but may not be something your guests are particularly interested in.

One such area is Accreditation. Not knowing abbreviations for accrediting organizations such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), or what the big deal is about accreditation, is something the executives and managers need to be aware of beforehand and to be prepared to explain why it is important.

Proper accreditation will go a long way to ease their minds over deciding to use that facility, and being presented with an unfamiliar or disreputable accreditor, or one whose certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on, is something to be aware of also.

Another area of concern when hosting a site inspection is scientific presentations. It is quite possible that some of your guests may be physicians and nurses who will benefit from seeing such presentations, but for those Plan Administrators who are not medical personnel, such tours maybe considerably boring, if not completely too technical for them to comprehend.

Technology Tours

A similar mistake made is taking business-focused guests to see the technology the facility has installed and uses. Dr. Todd recommends they create a spreadsheet of the expensive equipment they have and write a short blurb about each.

Her main point is this: Plan Administrators are seeking three things: transparency, good value, and superb, culturally-sensitive customer service.

Other areas to avoid on Fam tours

The Emergency Department, laboratory, radiology and imaging department, cardiac catheterization lab, and the PET/CT, and PACU’s are a waste of time, per Dr. Todd, and may even disturb the patient’s privacy and recovery.

Final five chapters

The final five chapters deal with developing relationships, the contracting and provider network criteria (where to get preliminary data, contract terms and payment agreements, and avoiding payment hassles with the right language), the basics of ERISA (ERISA fiduciary responsibilities, self-insurance plan sponsorship not limited to the US, and government employers pay for healthcare services outside of their countries), how to prepare for site inspections, and lastly, rate proposals.

Closing

Dr. Todd’s book is a must for any self-insured employer considering a medical travel program for their beneficiaries. For those employers who self-insure for general health care, this book provides them with the knowledge they need to have to explore doing so. For those self-insured employers who self-insure for workers’ comp, this too is an important book.

The likelihood that the Affordable Care Act will be repealed or replaced, with something worse, or with nothing at all, grows stronger every day now. Once that happens, premiums will rise, and alternatives such as medical travel will seem much more plausible and cost-effective.

While this book was written from the perspective of the seller of healthcare services, purchasers of such services, either domestically or internationally, can benefit from reading it. Not knowing what to look for will only cost you time and money and be harmful to the health of your plan and your employees. I highly recommend this book to you.

Another Fine Mess

Republican politicians are the Stan Laurel of American politics. For those not familiar with the famous comedy team of Laurel and Hardy from the first half of the 20th century, Stan Laurel was the one who always got the boys into what Oliver Hardy called, “another fine mess.”

laurel-hardy

Stan Laurel is the one on the left.

I call the GOP the Stan Laurel of politics because after three expensive wars that have drained our economy, and the financial meltdown they left the outgoing administration, they now want to repeal the Affordable Care ACT (ACA), more commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Some genius on Facebook recently said that he wanted them to repeal Obamacare because he was getting his insurance from the Affordable Care Act. His friends took him to task for not knowing that it is one and the same.

But the embodiment of Stan Laurel in the Republican Party should be Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. For those unsure of who he is, here is his picture.

ryanrand

He’s on the left. The person to his right is his idol, Ayn Rand (throw in Rand Paul and you get ‘Ayn Rand Paul Ryan Ayn Rand, moving one name and some letters and dropping others). Paul Ryan, among other things, wants to eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the ACA as well. I am sure unemployment and work comp are also on his agenda.

The only books on economics Ryan has ever read are “Atlas Shrugged” and the “The Fountainhead.” Works of fiction, just like his party’s proposal to repeal and replace the ACA. Replace with what? Before it was called “Obamacare” it was called, “Romneycare”, as it was the plan Mitt Romney and Ted Kennedy enacted in Massachusetts. [It should be noted that Rand towards the end of her life, lived on Welfare and Social Security; so much for rugged individualism]

So, this is really a Republican idea that they want to repeal, but don’t know what to replace it with, or even if they will replace it. They certain will, from all I have seen and heard, blow a hole in our budget if they do repeal and replace it with something worse. Another fine mess, GOP!

Here’s another picture of Paul Ryan, next to his long-lost sibling, Alfred E. Newman.

separated-at-birth

A striking resemblance, don’t you think?

Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, has been chronicling an “ACA Deathwatch” and what repeal means.

So, if you don’t believe me when I say the GOP will get us into another fine mess, listen to Joe. And be aware that there are alternatives to the disaster that awaits us if they do repeal the ACA, but ignore them at your peril.