US Insurers Encourage Less Costly, Overseas Procedures

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Health insurers "would like to see more policyholders traveling abroad for medical care" that can cost thousands of dollars less than in the U.S., Business Week reports. According to Business Week, some insurers have begun including overseas hospitals in their coverage networks. Jonathan Edelheit, president of the Medical Tourism Association, said, "All of the largest U.S. insurers are starting to educate themselves or are putting [offshore] programs in place."

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He said that insurers can encourage patients to travel abroad for medical care by waiving deductibles and copayments, offering to cover travel costs for the patient and family members, or providing cash incentives, and the insurer still can save tens of thousands of dollars. In addition, alliances between foreign hospitals and U.S. insurers typically are approved by the Joint Commission International, part of the same not-for-profit organization that accredits U.S. hospitals.

According to Business Week, the "shift is sure to leave some policyholders disgruntled," as offering international coverage "might make it easier for employers to limit benefits at home, for instance, by raising the deductibles on U.S.-based procedures." In addition, it is "also extremely difficult for patients to sue for malpractice in most Asian countries," Business Week reports. However, "over time, for policyholders and payers alike, the price may be hard to resist," according to Business Week (Einhorn, Business Week, 3/13).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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