Yesterday, one of my contacts in the medical travel space commented on an article that was posted on LinkedIn that explained why the author was sent south of the border to purchase prescription drugs (you thought I was going to just say drugs, right?) for his company.
He found out that the same drugs, made by the same manufacturer, but packaged in Spanish were much cheaper than ones packaged in English and sold north of the border.
I decided to ask for his permission to re-post his article, and with his kind permission, I am doing so here in its entirety, as posted to LinkedIn. Here is the link in case you want to read the original.
Why Pharma Sent Me South of the Border…
Published on February 3, 2019
You may have heard of people heading to other places for medical care, but is it really the right thing to do?
We know that the cost of healthcare is ridiculous. And, of course, no one is to blame…right? (Tongue in cheek)
I can’t blame the doctors – they’re great folks just trying to charge enough to cover the bills after all the red tape is required from insurance, Medicare, federal regs, etc. I can’t blame the hospitals – most of them are running in the red from having to support a widespread indigent population with recurring visits for drug overdoses and covering that overhead with Medicare reimbursement rates of 20%. I can’t blame the insurance companies – they’re the good folks just trying to break even as “non-profits”, right? (Just ask them) I can’t blame us the patients…after all, we’re just trying to get the care we need (note sarcasm as a handful overuse and abuse the system). I can’t blame pharma because they’re just trying to make drugs that save the world (snark, snark). I can’t blame government – they’re just trying to do the most for society (OK…ran out of snarks).
With no one to blame, no one is responsible to fix this.
What does this mean for me as an employer? It’s simple…
HEALTH CARE REFORM STARTS WITH ME…
No outside party can do it – I have to find ways to partner with my employees to find the right solutions to help manage costs. Let’s talk about just one of them.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER DRUG RUNS
It sounds ominous, but it’s one of the best thing we’ve found. Here’s the opportunity – I can get the same medication from the same manufacturer at substantially lower costs because I get it from a pharmacy that just happens to be located five minutes over the Mexican border. It comes in the same packaging, but it’s just written in Spanish. We verify the sourcing, we verify the manufacturing, we verify everything… And everything is above board. By working with the hospital where the pharmacy is located, we coordinate care with the physician in the United States to ensure that the patient has the right prescription, is seen by a physician in Mexico, and receives the quality product when they arrive. Legally, they can transport up to a 90 day supply over the border per day. To make it worth our while, we have them fly down to San Diego, have a courier pick them up and take them over the border for the first 90 day supply, transport them back and have them stay overnight in San Diego. The next day, the transport picks them up, takes them down for the second 90 day supply, bring them back and they fly home. That way they can get a 180 day supply per trip.
So what’s the catch?
I can’t think of one yet. Last year, our company ran a beta test with two individuals with a specialty drug each. We pay for their travel down, pay for the courier to transport them over the border to the hospital where they are met with the physicians at the hospital, we pay for the pharmacy representative, the medication, the overnight accommodations in San Diego, and a stipend to cover food and ancillary costs. What’s in it for the employee? We also cover their co-pay so they do not have to cover any costs for the medication – the medication becomes free to them, saving them hundreds of dollars if not thousands of dollars a year. Additionally, they get to keep any money that they save from the per diem money that we provide to them for their daily costs.
What’s in it for us is the employer?
Last year, after paying for the medication, all of the transportation costs including the employee costs of travel, the concierge fees for our broker who assists us with this arrangement, and all additional fees, the savings on these two individuals for one medication a piece was well over $70,000.
Do I have your attention?
Everything is legal. Everything is above board. Everything is safe. And the customer service is beyond everything that we can imagine.
This is not unique to us. The State of Utah just adopted this as their primary option for specialty medications for their employees. As I understand it, they are using a different service than I do. However, the results are similar.
We will be rolling this out to all of our employees this year. As you can imagine, there is great anticipation about how much we can save as we consider solutions and opportunities with program such as this. When it comes to healthcare, it is a game – and the people who understand the rules will win. The ones who do not understand the rules of the game will continue to pay more and lose.
Until we get a handle on controlling costs with things such as pharmaceuticals, we must continue to look for new ways to control these costs. If you would like additional information on the solution, feel free to message me.
In the meantime, feel free to get a hold of my pharma tourism broker – I promise I don’t get anything from this. I just share good news is I get it. @rockstarcurrywillix
Here’s to your success!
Dr. Wade Larson