Category Archives: Orthopedics

Medical Travel for Americans is Alive and Well

Many of you have probably thought that going abroad for medical care after passage of ACA was a thing of the past, or that the idea that workers injured on the job would go abroad was a “stupid, ridiculous idea and a non-starter”, have forgotten that medical care in the US is the most expensive in the world.

But the simple, undeniable fact is that we spend too much on medical care and get very poor results and outcomes, while other countries spend far less and get better outcomes.

Why are we so stubborn? And why hasn’t the workers’ comp world realized that they are fighting an uphill battle to lower costs every time they come out with some new strategy or cost containment measure that never lives up to its promise industry-wide?

Sure, there are individual cases where these companies save money for a particular client, but overall, the cost of medical care for workers’ comp still rises, even if that rise is slow at times, or appears to have shrunk, only to rise once again the next year, as seen in the NCCI State of the Line reports.

An article yesterday in said that traveling abroad for medical care simply makes more sense — even regular teeth cleaning is four times more expensive in the US than it is in Mexico.

One of the first procedures mentioned in the article involves a Minnesota couple who went out of the country for an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure. On her fourth trip to the Czech Republic, it finally worked, and she got pregnant. The procedure in the US would have cost them between $12,000 and $15,000.

While IVF is not something that workers’ comp would cover, the fact remains that procedures cost far too much in the US, and in the case of IVF, only have a 29% success rate, according to a CNBC report cited in the article.

An estimated 1.7 million Americans traveled abroad for care in 2017, according the Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, and author of the same titled book. In my seven years of studying medical travel, Josef Woodman’s name has figured prominently in many articles and forums of discussion on the subject.

The article goes on to say that that is 10 times more than the 2008 estimate from Time magazine.

Some of the top destinations for medical care are: India, Israel (always go to a Jewish doctor first), Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea (unless that little twerp up north gets an itchy trigger finger), and Turkey.

However, there are other, more accessible destinations closer to home like Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, etc.

Typical operations are orthopedic or spine surgery (are you listening work comp world?), reproductive operations, cardiovascular and eye surgery.

For example, a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) in the US costs an estimated $92,000 (you could buy a couple of nice cars for that amount), whereas in India, the same operation would cost $9,800.

A total knee replacement (are you still listening ,workers’ compsters?) cost around $31,000 in the good ole US of A, but in Thailand, costs around $13,000. Tell me how you can save that much on a knee replacement using any of your so-called cost saving schemes?

These same operations in Costa Rica would cost 45 to 65% less than in the US, and would not require such long flights from most parts of the US. What are you waiting for? Save some money, I guarantee your insureds will love you for it.

Malaysia would be 60 to 80% less, but why go there when you can go to Costa Rica?

According to Woodman, medical tourism (travel) is a Band-Aid for the country’s dysfunctional health care system.

Woodman told Salon, “I don’t think you can penetrate this with philanthropy. It’s gonna be baby steps all the way. But in the meantime, medical tourism is a really important option.”

Woodman also said he did not like the term “medical tourism” because it is not a vacation. You may have noticed that I use the term “medical travel” instead. It is travel for medical purposes, and if there is tourism component to it, it is incidental to the reason for going in the first place.

Patients who cannot afford dental work, IVF or orthopedic surgery in the US, Woodman said, should consider travelling abroad. If their operation or treatment is expected to cost them $6,000 out of pocket, they will save money — even with the plane ticket.

Oh, by the way, that Minnesota couple spent, get this, only $235 for the IVF, not including flights. With such reasonable cost savings, it would be a no-brainer for workers’ comp to do the same.

But some people are stupid, ridiculous, and non-starters in my book.


Ashley Furniture and Medical Travel, part 2

As promised last month, here is the Spotlight article from Medical Travel about Ashley Furniture’s foray into Medical Travel for their employees.

In case you missed it, here is the link to part 1 of the article.

Ashley Furniture and Medical Travel, part 1

From the One Hand Washes the Other department comes the following Spotlight article from Medical Travel

Ashley Furniture, based in Wisconsin, is one of the largest manufacturers of home furnishings in the world.

I met Rajesh Rao in 2014 when I attended the Costa Rican Medical Travel Summit in Miami Beach. Rajesh’s company was also instrumental in convincing another furniture manufacturer, HSM in North Carolina, to first send patients to India, then to Costa Rica for medical care. I have written about this in previous posts.

This article is part one, and part two will run next month.

Global Medical Tourism Industry Market Analysis

Note: The following is a re-print from U.S. Domestic Medical, one of two publications from CPR Strategic Marketing Communications. They also publish Medical Travel, and both publications have re-printed several of my posts on both of their newsletters, so I am returning the favor, which they have paid me many times over. I do not vouch for the accuracy of the data in the article, so please address any comments to the author.

Here is the article:

Global Medical Tourism Market By Treatment Type and by Region – Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth Trends and Forecasts (2016 – 2021)

The global medical tourism market has been estimated to be valued at USD 14,278 million, and it is anticipated to reach a market value of USD 21,380 million by the end of 2021 at a projected CAGR of 8.41% during the forecast period, 2016 to 2021.

Medical tourism involves travelling to another country for obtaining medical treatment. It is a high-growth industry driven by globalization and rising healthcare costs in the developed countries. A study shows that in United States, about 750,000 residents travel abroad for healthcare each year. A range of governments across the globe has taken up various initiatives to stimulate and improve the medical tourism in the respective countries in order to improve patient care and help expand the market. Many countries could see potential for significant economic development in the emergent field of medical tourism. Cosmetic surgery, dental care, elective surgery, fertility treatments, cardiovascular surgery and genetic disorder treatments are the most preferred healthcare treatments in this sector.

High cost of medical treatment in the developed countries and availability of those treatments at a lower cost in other countries have fueled the development of medical tourism. In addition, the availability of latest medical technologies and a growing compliance on international quality standards drive this market. The use of English as the main working language solves the problem of communication and patient satisfaction, adding to the growth of this market. Enhanced patient care, health insurance portability, advertising and marketing help the medical tourism industry to grow at a fast rate. On the other hand, infection outbreaks during or after travel, issues in following up with the patients before returning to their own country, and medical record transfer issues are the factors restraining the growth of the tourism industry. However, the unavailability of certain treatments at a lower cost hampers this market more than any other factors.

The global market for the medical tourism industry is segmented based on treatment type (cosmetic treatment, dental treatment, cardiovascular treatment, orthopedics treatment, bariatric surgery, fertility treatment, eye surgery and general treatment) and geographical regions. Cosmetic treatments hold the largest market share, as cosmetic surgeries are not covered by insurance.

Based on geography, the market is segmented into North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. APAC holds the largest market share, followed by Europe. Thailand and Malaysia are strong markets with prospect for significant growth, followed by Korea.

The key players in the global medical tourism market are Bangkok Hospital Medical Center, Asian Heart Institute, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd., Bumrungrad International Hospital, Fortis Healthcare Ltd., Min-Sheng General Hospital, Raffles Medical Group, Prince Court Medical Center, KPJ Healthcare Berhad, and Samitivej Sukhumvit.

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