Category Archives: Medical Tourism

Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Messenger

From the “I Think It’s Time for Another Rant” Department

In response to my last post, The Further Adventures of Ashley Furniture in Medical Travel, I received several comments about the facts presented in the article, which by the way was also published in The New York Times, A Mexican Hospital, an American Surgeon, and a $5,000 Check (Yes, a Check).

Now I don’t mind comments, I welcome them. But they should not be directed towards me personally, because I am not responsible for any misleading or inaccurate reporting by the author or authors of articles I write about.

Some of the comments should, rightly be directed to the individuals or organizations mentioned in the article, as they are the active participants in what the article was describing, namely the knee replacement surgery of the spouse of an employee of Ashley Furniture Company.

I would like to point out one fact I failed to mention. Ashley has sent about 150 employees or dependents to either Mexico or Costa Rica, and since 2016, they have saved $3.2 million in health care costs, according to Marcus Gagnon, the company’s manager of global benefits and health.

Mr. Gagnon, as a side note, was featured in two previous articles published by Medical Travel Today.Com back in October and November 2017. (See my posts: Ashley Furniture and Medical Travel, part 1 and Ashley Furniture and Medical Travel, part 2)

Points were raised as to why NASH is sending patients and exporting surgeons to other countries to perform cheaper surgery pricing? NASH stands for North American Specialty Hospital. To answer that question, go to the source, NASH.

Another point was raised about pricing, and it was mentioned that US facilities charge as low as $14,990 for a total knee replacement, implant included, as a transparent bundled case rate. Hotel room for that is $149 plus tax, no hospital overnight required. And that malpractice insurance has no additional cost, plus there is no need for expensive flights, passports, etc.

Good question, Then why does the medical travel industry exist at all in the US, if what was commented is true? The fact is, it isn’t. That’s why Ashley, and HSM, a furniture manufacturer in North Carolina has been doing this for some time, as I have previously reported, and because I met the patient advocate for one of HSM’s employees at the ProMed event in 2014.

The patient in the KHN article, Donna Ferguson, also works for a furniture manufacturer in her Mississippi home town, and I bet that her employer was sure glad it wasn’t his dime that paid for her surgery, but that her husband’s company did.

Another point was made about the “concerns about quality of care” and the way Mexico does not require continuing education credits, and other criticisms of the Mexican health care system. Yet, as the article stated, they went beyond the JCI standards, and even got an extra autoclave to sterilize instruments more quickly.

Also, a comment was made about where the surgeon was from. In this instance, he was a Mayo Clinic trained, orthopedic surgeon from Milwaukee, and he would not have done this if he felt it would ruin his standing in the profession. Oh, and maybe there have been other physicians who have traveled to meet patients elsewhere. So what. The article was talking about this one, not a whole list of them.

Yes, I have not visited Galenia or Bumrungrad, as many of you have. That has been the point of my writing a blog for nearly seven years. But I have only been to three events, and only one invited me to speak. What am I, chopped liver? I post my articles to my blog and LinkedIn so that folks can read them and invite me.

Of course, I’d like to take fam tours of facilities. Of course, I’d like to meet other people in the industry, but since October 2012 when I began, I have struggled financially, personally, and medically to just stay alive. A little concern and interest on your part would have been nice.

The other points raised in the comments about the $5000 dollars she received and fees and patents, waiving deductibles and copayments were more than likely handled by Ashley’s medical travel plan administrator, IndusHealth, who also happened to be the administrator for HSM, and whose president I also met at ProMed in 2014. Again, I am only a messenger.

Finally, a comment was made that my next to last paragraph was a stretch. Perhaps so, but in light of this past weekend’s protests in Portland between anti-fascists and fascists, and the shootings in Dayton and El Paso, not to mention, three that were foiled last week, and Trump’s Nuremburg-style rallies, I can be forgiven if I want to express an idea that could bring some people to understand what the rest of the world is like.

I am not interested in what other protests happen around the world. I am only concerned, as far as Americans and medical travel are concerned, with showing them that there are no “shithole” countries, and that there are good and bad everywhere. I believe a little on-the-ground education, especially among the working class, white or otherwise, will improve racial and ethnic relations. Call me an idealist, but that is all we have to go on if we are ever going to have peace in the world.

There was something mentioned in the article that is kind of puzzling. A medical travel expert was quoted as saying that “Building a familiar culture in a foreign destination may be appealing to some American consumers, but I do not see it as a sustainable business.” If that is so, then why is he in the business in the first place, and why is he partnered with someone else on a podcast on that very subject, and who are both known in the medical travel world?

That’s the end of my rant. I invite anyone who wants to invite me to the next event or fam tour, to do so. Please let me know in advance what you are willing to pay for, and give me enough time to make arrangements for traveling with my medical condition, as traveling outside the US is somewhat problematic, depending on where it is, and other factors that might prevent me from doing so.

And again, Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Messenger.

 

The Further Adventures of Ashley Furniture in Medical Travel

Readers of this blog will remember two previous articles I linked to back in October 2017 and November 2017 about the Ashley Furniture Company’s foray into Medical Travel.

Now comes a new article, courtesy of Kaiser Health News, that shows just how American patients are saving money by having surgery in Cancun, Mexico for procedures such as knee surgery (are you listening, Workers’ Compsters?)

Not only are the patients traveling to Cancun, but so are the physicians from the US.  As pictured below, Donna Ferguson, the wife of one of Ashley’s employees, is shown in the hospital in Cancun, along with her doctors, one of whom will be performing knee replacement surgery. As stated in the article, all she had to do was walk out of her hotel, and into the Galenia Hospital through a short hallway.

Donna Ferguson, center, of Ecru, Miss., had no contact with Milwaukee surgeon Dr. Thomas Parisi, left, before meeting him in Cancun the day before he performed her knee replacement surgery. (Rocco Saint-Mleux for KHN)

Donna’s surgeon, Dr. Thomas Parisi, from Milwaukee, had flown to Cancun the day before. To get this surgery, which she was getting for free, she would also receive a check when she got home. (I’ve said this before, but you never listened)

According to the article, the employees of Ashley receive a $5,000 payment from the company, and all their travel costs are covered. They use this option because they have no out-of-pocket copayments or deductibles, so it made financial sense for both a highly trained orthopedist and a patient from Mississippi to leave the US and meet at an upscale Mexican hospital. (Let’s see Trump try to built a wall to stop that!)

Dr. Parisi spent less than 24 hours in Cancun, so no one could accuse him of slacking off to play golf, and was paid $2,700, which as the article stated, was three times what he would have gotten from Medicare. The cost of the surgery for Ashley was less than half of what it would have been in the US.

To understand better, just why Ashley is doing this for their employees and their families, let’s look at what the average knee replacement would cost in the US: about $30,000 — sometimes double or triple that; whereas in Mexico, at Galenia, it was only $12,000. according to Dr. Gabriela Flores Teón, the hospital’s medical director.

The standard charge for the night at Galenia is $300, compared to an average of $2,000 at US hospitals, said Dr. Flores.

But besides the big savings on the surgery, there was also savings on the cost of the medical device, made by a subsidiary of the Band-Aid people, J&J, in New Jersey. The implant cost $3,500 in Mexico, but nearly $8,000 in the US, Flores continued.

In case you WC hotshots were wondering, Galenia Hospital is not some fleabag hospital on the cheap. It is accredited by the international affiliation of the Joint Commission (JCI). They set the standards for hospitals in the US.

However, so that doctors and patients could feel comfortable with surgery, NASH (North American Speciality Hospital) based in Denver, and who has organized treatment for dozens of American patients at Galenia since 2017, along with Galenia, worked to go beyond those standards.

In the two SPOTLIGHT articles referenced above, the manager of global benefits and health at Ashley, Marcus Gagnon said, “We’ve had an overwhelming positive reaction from employees who have gone,”

The company has also sent about 140 employees or dependents for treatments at a hospital in Costa Rica, and together, the foreign medical facilities have saved Ashley $3.2 million in health care costs, said Gagnon. (Wake up, you WC guys! Why are you being so stubborn?)

Gagnon continued, “Even after the incentive payments and travel expenses, we still save about half the cost of paying for care in the United States,” “It’s been a nice option — not a magic bullet — but a nice option.”

So, if Ashley can do it, and if HSM could do it too, the so could you. Not all the hospitals outside of the US are fleabags. Galenia in Cancun is one example. Bumrungrad in Thailand is another, and there are plenty more around the world that cater to medical travel.

The whole point of my advocacy for medical travel and workers’ comp was so that American workers and their dependents like Donna could travel abroad and see what the world is really like, so that political, hate-filled rallies and incidents we are seeing everyday since the election of a white supremacist to the presidency, would not take place.

How else will the American worker learn about the real world beyond his borders if not this way? Certainly not from Fox News.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It

 

Medicare Does Not Cover Retirees Overseas

A LinkedIn connection posted the following article yesterday from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and I thought that since it was a while since I wrote about medical travel issues, that this would be a good topic to discuss. In addition, it occurred to me that in all the talk of Medicare for All, there is no mention of retirees who retire outside of the US being covered by a MFA plan.

So the following article will have two functions: to stimulate interest in the medical travel industry for retirees who aren’t covered presently under Medicare as a new stream of revenue; and secondly, for those advocates of MFA to consider adding a provision in their plans to address this problem.

Here is the article in its’ entirety:

It’s Not an Accident Medicare Doesn’t Cover Retirees Overseas: No One in the Media Supports Free Trade!

Written by Dean Baker

Published: 18 July 2019

The New York Times ran a piece warning retirees thinking of moving overseas that Medicare will not cover their medical expenses in other countries. This is true, but the NYT piece never once pointed out that this is conscious policy, not something that just happened.

Readers of the paper may recall that it reports on trade agreements all the time. These trade agreements cover a wide range of issues, including things like enforcing patent and copyright monopolies and rules on Internet commerce and privacy.

If anyone in the United States in a position of power cared, then it would be possible to include transferring Medicare payments to other countries, to allow people to buy into other nations’ health care system on the list of topics being negotiated. This doesn’t happen because, unlike access to cheap labor for manufactured goods, there is no one in power who wants to make it easier for people in the United States to take advantage of lower cost and more efficient health care systems elsewhere.

While such a policy could potentially save the U.S. government an enormous amount of money on Medicare (costs in other rich countries average less than half as much per person), the health care industry would scream bloody murder if any politician attempted to implement free trade in health care services. “Free trade,” as it is conventionally used in U.S. policy debates, just means removing barriers that protect less educated workers from foreign competition.

The New York Times, like other mainstream publications will not even allow free trade to be discussed in its pages in contexts where it might hurt the interests of the wealthy.

http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/it-s-not-an-accident-medicare-doesn-t-cover-retirees-overseas-no-one-in-the-media-supports-free-trade?

Cross-Border Health Care – Insurance Industry Finally Takes Notice

Readers of this blog have no doubt read my first post on cross-border health care, Cross-Border Health Care a Reality in California, among others. Many of them dealt with getting medical care under workers’ compensation, and the others were confined to the health care space.

Thanks to fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, who sent me a copy of the following Quick Take from the GB Journal, a publication of Gallagher Bassett, the issue of cross-border health care, especially in workers’ comp (my idea originally) is finally getting traction in the industry.

Not that I am blowing my horn, mind you, but it would have been nice to get some recognition a few years back when I started writing.

Well, anyway, here is the item from GB Journal:

Quick Take 2:
Cross Border Health Care

Employers in Arizona and California’s huge agriculture business figured this out a long time ago. For many employees who are either Mexican nationals or who have extensive family connections in northern Mexico, getting needed medical treatment in Mexico can be both more convenient and much more cost effective than treatment north of the border. Your humble correspondent set up group health PPO networks in Mexicali and Tijuana for seasonal farm workers back in the 80s. They worked remarkably well and provided this generally underserved group with excellent care at affordable rates. A recent article in Risk & Insurance’s online service describes how the same concept is now being used for treatment under workers’ compensation. 

Yes, this is legal under California law. (The R&I article does not mention Arizona comp law.) The author makes specific reference to the Mexican HMO Sistemas Medicos Nacionales, S.A. de C.V. (SIMNSA), which is – an important point – licensed by the State of California. In addition to lower costs and convenience, treating in Mexico can have additional advantages for injured workers who are not fluent in English and who feel more comfortable in a familiar cultural setting. Getting medical treatment in Mexico is not suitable for all claims or all employees, obviously, but if you have a significant comp exposure close to our southern border, you might want to check this out with your comp carrier or TPA, if you have not already.

If you want any additional information, or would like to explore this option for your workers’ comp needs, contact me and I will work with you to put together a plan for you.

Mea Culpa, and a Warning

This post is for all those in the Medical Travel industry.

Last night, I had a running argument on Facebook with a couple of know-nothings who commented on an article published back in January by Truthout.org about Americans going to Mexico for medical care.

After my post was published, I received a comment from an individual I know and met in Mexico in 2014, who said the following:

It is unfortunate that the title to this article is misleading. Millions of Americans do go to Mexico every year for business and pleasure. The title seems to imply that millions go to Mexico for dental treatments or medical travel and that simply is not true. The actual number of dental an medical tourists is certainly in the tens of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands but far short of millions. The credibility of the story is undermined by this misleading title. Too bad.

At that time, I did not apologize for my error, but did post an reply distancing myself from the article’s veracity.

At this time, I want to apologize to the medical travel world for my mistake, and to warn you about articles such as this floating around the Internet, passing off misleading information as truth.

Every one of the Internet trolls I communicated with last night, and one this morning, criticized my comment that it was misleading, and could not say otherwise with any verifiable data, only their uninformed opinion.

I, on the other hand, presented my experience with researching and writing about medical travel for seven years, and my attendance at medical travel conferences, even one where I spoke and presented my paper on the subject of implementing medical travel into workers’ compensation.

None of these individuals have any clue what they were saying. So, be aware.

Thank you.

Medical Tourism Market is Anticipated to Attain US$160.8 Billion by 2025, Says TMR

Changing gears from my posts on Medicare for All, the following press release, brought to my attention this morning by the good folks at Medical Travel Today.com, the kind folks who re-posted many of my early posts on the subject of Medical Travel, should be of interest to those MFA/Single Payer skeptics and deniers. If should they prevail in derailing the move in that direction, Medical travel may be the only option available to those Americans who could afford to travel abroad for medical care, but cannot afford the high cost of domestic medical treatments.

Here is the link to the press release:

Source: Medical Tourism Market is Anticipated to Attain US$160.8 Billion by 2025, Says TMR

Medical Travel/Health Care Thought Leader Seeks Employment Opportunities

Medical Travel/HealthCare Thought Leader and Blogger, seeks part-time, remote employment opportunities. I am willing to speak, write, and collaborate on projects to bring about greater participation of patients to global medical travel facilities.

I am not a physician, nor do I have clients to refer to you. I offer my services in an administrative or managerial capacity.

Experience:

Over six years’ experience creating, maintaining, and analyzing current issues in Medical Travel, Health Care, and other topics.

Over six years research into the Medical Travel industry.

Promoted the implementation of medical travel into Workers’ Compensation insurance industry.

Analyzed the cost of healthcare and the options of alternative treatments abroad.

Presented White Paper to Medical Travel conference in Mexico in Nov. 2014.

Extensive experience in Insurance and Claims Management, especially in medical-related claims (Workers’ Compensation).

Strong administrative and financial skills.

Education:

Master’s in Health Administration, 2011

Interested in working remotely, willing to travel, willing to write and speak at conferences, has valid US passport.

Resume can be found here.

Blog: richardkrasner.wordpress.com

Phone number: +1 561-603-1685 (mobile)