Tag Archives: Central America

Medical Travel Impact of ACA Repeal: The View from the Medical Travel Industry

Note: Laura Carabello’s Medical Travel Today has been the best partner a writer such as myself could have in getting my idea for medical travel out to the world, and it is only fitting that I return the favor. Here is an article written by Laura on a subject I have covered many times before.

Without the Affordable Care Act Will Medical Tourism Increase?
by Laura Carabello

mdmag.com- The impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created uncertainty in the US healthcare marketplace. As the existing system is dismantled, and programs shut down or replaced, many Americans will be scrambling to access truly affordable, quality care.

This phenomenon has many implications for US physicians as people in every market sector begins to explore their options – from uninsured individuals to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, as well as employees covered by self-funded companies.

If the ranks of the uninsured grow as a result of the demise of the ACA, medical travel options could represent an ideal solution. According to the research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in January 24, 2017, even after implementation of the ACA, 15% of people with chronic diseases still lacked health insurance coverage and more than a quarter of them didn’t get a checkup in 2014. About 23% of people with chronic disease went without care because they found that costs were still too high.

This signals a potential boon for the international medical travel industry, further propelling the steady growth it has experienced in recent years. Medical travel was valued at $439 billion, and is projected to grow 25% a year over the next decade. In 2016, an estimated 1.4 million Americans traveled abroad for a medical procedure.

US physicians may also find that even Medicaid beneficiaries and Medicare enrollees will be lured to hospitals and providers outside the US.

For Medicaid patients who remained optimistic that their home state would offer expanded coverage, their hopes are fading. Repeal of the ACA will leave millions of the poorest and sickest Americans without insurance. Many states may either abandon Medicaid expansion or be forced to significantly redesign their programs to ensure that individuals below 400% of the federal poverty level can receive affordable healthcare coverage and services.

While these low-income families may not have cash reserves to fund expensive care in the US, they might have the resources – or may be able to gather support from family and friends – to access affordable surgeries overseas.

As for Medicare enrollees, including 57 million senior citizens and disabled Americans, higher premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing could spark a shift toward medical travel, especially given the country’s aging population and the likelihood that many seniors will require surgery.

Seniors could face higher deductibles and co-payments for their Part A, which covers hospital stays, and higher premiums and deductibles for Part B, which pays for doctor visits and other services. Under a full repeal, Medicare enrollees may also lose some of their free preventative benefits, such as screenings for breast and colorectal cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Self-insured employers are actively seeking to lower health-care costs and increase their financial margins, and they may opt to steer workers to more cost-effective Centers of Excellence outside their home state or region.  As a result, and despite long-term relationships with their hometown physicians, patients will be incentivized to leave the country and access care at foreign hospitals that demonstrate quality care at lower cost.  By waiving deductibles or copays – and even paying cash rewards for choosing the medical travel option – employers will prompt patients to make the decision to travel.

Further raising patients’ comfort levels regarding medical travel is the increased quality of care now offered at international hospitals. This improvement is due to the success of knowledge transfer programs and training offered by US institutions and providers to hospitals worldwide. These collaborative efforts are bringing American ingenuity, sophisticated technology, administrative simplification and advanced techniques to hospitals in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean, as well as to locations as far away as Malta and the United Arab Emirates.

If the ACA is fully repealed, distinct changes in medical travel patterns are expected.

While Americans traditionally traveled out of the country to access elective procedures — dental care, esthetic surgeries or wellness care not typically included in their health benefits packages – they are now more likely to seek reliable medical treatment for complex conditions in destinations that are cross-border but only requiring three to four hours of travel time.

Hospitals and providers in the Latin America-Caribbean Region are likely to become destinations of choice for employers, as well as individuals. The lure of less expensive and shorter travel, reduced language barriers, and more cultural familiarity are appealing to all.  The challenge will be to access benchmarks for selecting providers, ascertaining costs, determining legal recourse regarding less-than-optimal outcomes and other issues. Without the guidance of a health plan or administrator, this process may be challenging to many.

With the steady rise of medical travel, a growing number of US physicians will encounter patients seeking consultation prior to getting treatment abroad. This means providing medical records or consulting directly with the international team.

Physicians will also encounter more patients who require follow-up care after undergoing a procedure in another country. In this case, it will be important to access treatment information and discharge papers from the overseas hospital, as well as records for blood work, X-rays or other screenings for use as a roadmap for the patient’s post-care. Physicians may also be reticent to perform additional services that may be required following care performed outside the US and not in their control.

Beyond the medical details, physicians need to understand every aspect of medical travel to deal with the increased competition and cost pressures. They may want to look into making improvements and upgrading services to justify the expense of treatments here in the United States. The strongest transformation will occur in what is today the most lucrative part of the industry: high-cost surgeries and procedures. Keep in mind that US treatment costs often justify travel elsewhere, despite additional travel and accommodation costs.

Going forward, physicians can play a role in guiding patients to seek the best possible care – wherever it is available — while helping them understand the benefits and potential risks of medical travel.

To view the original article, click here.

Advertisements

Foreign-born Workers on the Rise: What it Means for Work Comp and Medical Travel

Working Immigrants.com posted a report this weekend that indicated that the percentage of foreign-born workers in the US will rise from 16% to 20% of the workforce over the next 26 years.

It will grow for the next 15 years, then the pace will slow considerably. Citing a Census Bureau publication from March 2015, Working Immigrants said that the total population of the US is expected to grow from about 319 million in 2014, to 359 million in 2030, and 380 million in 2040, which is an increase of 19% over the next 26 years.

According to the report, the working age population will grow by 12%.

There is a higher rate of employment among foreign-born, due to the fact that they mainly come here to work, and they are more concentrated in working age brackets ― 80% between 18 and 64, vs 62% among native born.

Modest increases in the foreign-born population will result in higher shares of employment for these workers.

By 2040, foreign-born workers will be one fifth of the workforce.

It is a given that not many of these workers will have a great command of English, and the most likely foreign-born workers will be Hispanics and Asians.

A workforce that does not have a command of English, is mainly from Central and South America and Asia, will no doubt put a strain on an already strained social welfare system, especially workers’ comp, since they are more likely to be injured on the job.

So those of you in the medical travel industry looking for patients and trying to entice well-off Americans down to Latin America for dental work, cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery, and other treatments not available in the US or that are too expensive, should consider expanding your offerings to your fellow Latino immigrants, or change direction and consider doing so by offering to facilitate less expensive surgeries for common injuries found in the workers’ comp space.

And those of you in workers’ comp who have shut your minds to new ideas and refuse to listen to what I am saying, either should learn Spanish or Chinese, or deal with the changing nature of health care globally, and stop worrying about stepping on the toes of the vested interests, and start thinking about the interests of all those new foreign-born workers who will be coming here in the next 26 years (24 now that it is 2016).

They may not feel comfortable going to a hospital for surgery if the staff there does not speak their language, or the food is unfamiliar, and they may even recover faster if they know they are surrounded by friends and family in their home country. That will lead to a more productive and happier employee.

And a happier employee will improve your bottom line.


I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

I am also looking for a partner who shares my vision of global health care for injured workers.

I am also willing to work with any health care provider, medical tourism facilitator or facility to help you take advantage of a market segment treating workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation is going through dramatic changes, and may one day be folded into general health care. Injured workers needing surgery for compensable injuries will need to seek alternatives that provide quality medical care at lower cost to their employers. Caribbean and Latin America region preferred.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Will accept invitations to speak or attend conferences.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com.

Transforming Workers’ Comp Blog is now viewed all over the world in over 250 countries and political entities. I have published 300 articles and counting, many of them re-published in newsletters and other blogs.

Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Knee Surgery in Latin America under $20,000

As a follow-up to my post, Top 10 Hospitals for Knee Surgery Under $50,000, here is a graphic I submitted recently to a workers’ comp carrier in Florida I am interested in exploring opportunities with.

The hospitals and costs were culled from the Archimedicx website I linked to in the previous post.

Western Hemisphere Hospitals Knee Surgery under $20,000

I am sure there are many more, and there are more that are between $20,000 and $50,000 that were not mentioned in the first article by Archimedicx.

Even if these figures are not completely accurate, why take the chance that they are not at least representative of the cost difference between what is charged by hospitals in the US. And when you add in all the additional fees one finds on a US hospital, these prices are practically a bargain.

But go on and pay through the nose. Or is that the knee? To quote Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does”.

Lower Cost, High Quality Health Care is Nearby

My good friend, Amanda Haar, editor of the Medical Travel Today newsletter, where many of my blog posts have been published, reported this week on a Huffington Post.com article about the best havens for quality medical care overseas.

The article reported that the website, InternationalLiving.com, recently released its 2013 Health Care Survey, which detailed the top eight countries for quality medical care. Of the eight mentioned by InternationalLiving.com, five countries are in the Caribbean and Latin America region.

The five are: Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay (new to me), Mexico, and Ecuador (also new to me).

While InternationalLiving.com’s article focuses on medical care for expats who are taking advantage of the lower cost, high quality health care offered to the citizens of these countries, it is reasonable to assume that such lower cost, high quality health care can be available to medical tourists as well, including those covered under the US Workers’ Compensation system.

As the world gets smaller, and as more and more people move to the US in search of better opportunities, even during a slow economic recovery, the American workforce will be more reflective of the natives of these and other nations in the region, as I mentioned in my earlier post, “No Back Alleys Here”.

So if that is the case, and if the cost of medical care is rising, then shouldn’t we here in the US take advantage of the lower cost, higher quality health care for our injured workers that is obtainable abroad?