As promised last month, here is the Spotlight article from Medical Travel Today.com 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.
From the One Hand Washes the Other department comes the following Spotlight article from Medical Travel Today.com.
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.
“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
Michael Corleone, Godfather, Part III
When Michael confronts Connie and Neri in the kitchen of his townhouse, he warns them to never give an order to kill someone again (in this case, it was Joey Zaza), and goes on to state that when he thought he had left the mob lifestyle, they pull him back.
Thus, is the case with opt-out, as I discussed in my last post on the subject.
Kristen Beckman, in today’s Business Insurance, reminds us that opt-out, like the Mob, is pulling us back into the conversation.
As I reported last time, a bill in Arkansas, Senate Bill 653, pending in that state’s legislature’s Insurance & Commerce Committee since the beginning of March, proposes an alternative to the state system.
Ms. Beckman quotes Fred C. Bosse (not Fred C. Dobbs), the southwest region vice president of the American Insurance Association (AIA), who said that the bill is an attempt to keep the workers comp opt-out conversation going.
Mr. Bosse said that the AIA takes these bills seriously (good for them) and engages legislators to dissuade progress of such legislation the AIA believes could create an unequal benefit system for employees. (They haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid either)
Arkansas’ bill is the only legislation currently under consideration, but a state Rep in Florida, Cord Byrd (there’s a name for you), a Republican (it figures) from Jacksonville Beach, promoted legislation last year, but never filed it.
South Carolina and Tennessee, where bills were previously introduced within the past two years has gone nowhere.
And once again ARAWC rears its ugly head. For those of you unfamiliar with ARAWC, or the Association for Responsible Alternatives to Workers’ Compensation, it is a right-wing lobbying and legislation writing group based in Reston, Virginia. (see several other posts on ARAWC on this blog)
A statement ARAWC sent to BI said that these bills are beginning to pop up organically to model benefits that companies have seen from Texas’ non-subscription model. (Organically? That’s like saying mushroom clouds organically popped up over Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
Here’s a laugh for you, straight from the ARAWC statement:
“Outcomes and benefits for injured workers have improved, employers are more competitive when costs are contained and taxpayers are well served by market-driven solutions,” They further said, “We recognize that each state is different and that the discussions at the state level will involve varied opinions.”
Of course, we cannot really know if injured workers are benefitting, or just being denied their rights, and it seems that opt-out is only to help employers and taxpayers get out of their responsibility to those who sustain serious injuries while employed.
In another post, the notion that Texas’ system could serve as a model for other states was outlined in a report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (don’t you just love the names of these reactionary groups?)
Bill Minick, president of PartnerSource, praised the report, according to Ms. Beckman, and said that competition has driven down insurance premium rates and improved benefits for Texas workers. (That’s what he says, but is any of it true, I wonder? I doubt it.)
ARAWC has listed a laundry list of benefits they say responsible alternative comp laws could provide:
It is good to know that the AIA is critical of the report, and that in their opinion, it is unworkable to allow employers to adopt a separate, but unequal system of employee benefits.
And as we have seen with the defeat of the AHCA, leaving a government-sponsored program up to market-driven forces is a recipe for disaster that should not be repeated in workers’ comp, no matter what flavor the Kool-Aid comes in.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
My friend, Maria Todd, PhD, noted International Expert on Healthcare & Health Tourism Business Strategies & Operations, Business Owner, Author, and Speaker, has written a very cogent and to the point article challenging American hospitals on why they eschew inbound medical tourism.
For the uninitiated, inbound medical tourism, or travel, refers to foreign patients traveling to the US or other countries for medical care from their home country.
A case in point was the late, and not lamented, Shah of Iran who was allowed to come to the US for treatment of his cancer, and which led to the taking hostage of our embassy staff, destroying what was left of one presidential administration, and secretly aiding another to win the election, and thus look good in the eyes of the American people, only some time later to that administration selling arms to Iran for other hostages, the cash then used to support the Contras in Nicaragua.
But I digress.
As the Shah had money, he was welcomed with open arms, but Maria wonders why other American hospitals, knowing that they will receive cash, still refuses to seek out inbound medical tourism as an alternative source of revenue.
According to Dr. Todd, “It is estimated that the USA is the 3rd most popular destination for inbound medical tourism from other countries, but the practice of traveling for health has been a “thing” in the USA for more than 100 years.”
Corporations such as Pepsico, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Boeing, WalMart and many other corporations, she writes, with self-funded health plans under ERISA, have the freedom to contract with any hospital, anywhere in the world without going through a managed care network, but can’t because the hospitals with lots of value to offer simply don’t seem interested enough to talk to them.
She wants to know why not? In order for her to find the answer to that and other questions, she is asking her colleagues in healthcare business development and business administration who are executives at leading healthcare institutions and well-equipped ASCs across America: “Why do you eschew medical tourism business?”
This question, and the others that she poses in her article, also relate to outbound medical tourism as well.
Why do employers, insurance companies, the domestic health care industry, which is beset by so many problems and potential shortages and inefficiencies, as well as the entire workers’ compensation industry eschew medical travel for non-work-related illnesses and diseases, and work-related injuries requiring surgery?
I’ve written about this many times before. I have cited American Exceptionalism, racism, xenophobia, greed, ignorance of the quality of medical care abroad, and many other factors, but as Maria points out for US hospitals turning down cash patients, employers and carriers can save money by looking outside our broken and dysfunctional medical care system under workers’ comp.
It’s high time the US joins the rest of the world, and allows our citizens the freedom to go wherever they want for medical care, no matter what the cause, or condition that prompts them to seek medical care that is high quality, and will save money for their employer, and provide them an opportunity to see the world that also belongs to them.
Not to do so is tantamount to enslavement to a corrupt and rigged system that benefits unscrupulous physicians, pharmacies, pain management centers, and other workers’ comp service providers, and harms injured workers.
Medical travel will happen. Resist at your peril.
Employers opting out of workers’ comp in Texas are reducing costs, but more study is needed on how non-subscription affects injured workers, according to Stephanie Goldberg of Business Insurance.
Ms. Goldberg reports that a study released last week by Alison D. Morantz of Stanford Law School, found that the overall cost per claim is about 49% lower in the non-subscription environment, which is largely due to declines in medical and wage replacement costs.
The study also found, she writes, that despite no significant decline in frequency of claims, that more serious claims involving replacement of lost wages are about 33% less common among non-subscribing employers.
For the study, Ms. Goldberg adds, Ms. Morantz recruited 15 large multistate companies that operate homogenous facilities nationwide, and compared outcomes in traditional workers’ comp versus opt-out for each company from 1998 to 2010.
The study found also that the frequency of nontraumatic injuries declined about 47% with opt-out coverage.
“It could be that nonsubscribers are better at screening out nontraumatic claims under one of the many exclusions that private plans typically contain,” said Ms. Morantz.
Meanwhile, Ms. Goldberg wrote, a nontraumatic injury that is covered may be denied if it is not reported by the end of the employee’s shift, or within 24 hours.
Thirteen of the fifteen employers in the study have “good cause” provisions that allow a claims administrator to determine if there was a good reason the claim was made late.
Finally, Ms. Morantz said that, “the biggest unanswered question is how these plans affect the welfare of workers.”
As I reported yesterday in two posts, “Texas State House Seeks to Change Rules for Workers’ Comp” and “Workers’ Comp Opt-Out Goes Under US Microscope“, there are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the effect opt-out will have on the injured worker.
Those who support opt-out expansion really don’t care about injured workers; they care about saving money for employers (i.e., profits that go back to the investors or to the top executives). They are also diametrically opposed to giving workers any benefits, and would prefer that workers’ comp had never existed, along with unemployment insurance and health insurance.
Those who see through the smoke and mirrors of opt-out know what the world was like before workers’ comp laws, and they don’t want to go back to those days, and whether or not they really are concerned with the welfare of workers, or just say they do, I am afraid that they may not be able to stop this move on the part of opt-out proponents.
But federal oversight would be welcomed to prevent going back to the bad old days before Triangle, which happened 105 years ago tomorrow. Marty McFly went back to the future, these guys in opt-out want to go back to the past.
Laws that allow employers in Texas and Oklahoma to opt out of the states’ workers comp systems could be subject to federal oversight, according to an article today in Business Insurance.com, amid concerns about their effect on injured workers’ access to benefits and care and potential discrimination against employees who report workplace injuries and illnesses.
The article by Gloria Gonzalez, stated that last October, several Congressmen wrote to the U.S. Department of Labor asking for a report on how it would re-institute oversight of state workers comp systems.
The department annually tracked states’ compliance with recommended federal standards from 1972 to 2004, following an investigation by ProPublica Inc. and National Public Radio into state workers comp programs, the article reported. (Both ProPublica and NPR reports were previously cited by myself and others in earlier posts)
Ms. Gonzalez wrote that the letter also asked whether the department needed additional authority to protect injured workers’ rights and prevent cost shifting to taxpayers via programs such as Social Security.
Chris Mandel, senior vice president of strategic solutions at Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Nashville, was quoted as asking, “Is that a prelude to federalization?”
His question came Tuesday at the Business Insurance Rick Management Summit, and his reply to his own question was, “Who knows? But let’s just say they’re not happy with what they see.”
What does this mean to you?
It means Uncle Sam is watching, and he does not like what he sees going on with the expansion of opt-out legislation. Some of us already don’t like it and have not drunk the kool-aid just yet.
Let’s hope for the sake of injured workers that the feds do take a look under the microscope at the promises of opt-out and they find bacteria that can bring down the entire system, leaving injured workers where their great-grandfathers were before workers’ comp existed…out in the cold and out of luck if they got hurt.