Monday, July 31, 2006

 

Offshore Healthcare

This weekend's LA Times had a fascinating article on a growing practice of offshore healthcare. Used as another cost containment strategy, self insured employers have begun looking oversees for operations that are very costly in the US.
Carl Garrett of Leicester, N.C., will fly to a state-of-the-art New Delhi hospital in September for surgeries to remove gallstones and to fix an overworn rotator cuff. His employer, Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc. of Canton, N.C., will pay for it all, including airfare for Garrett and his fiancee. The company also will give Garrett a share of the expected savings, up to $10,000, when he returns.

Garrett chose to go abroad rather than have the operations locally, where he would have paid thousands of dollars in deductibles and co-pays.

"I think it is a great thing," the 60-year-old technician said. "Maybe it will drive down prices [of surgeries] here in the U.S."
Certainly globalization of healthcare is inevitable. But will offshoring procedures really help costs and patients?
U.S. hospital operators say that doesn't bode well for them.

"This is not the solution," said California Hospital Assn. spokeswoman Jan Emerson. "In fact, this could make problems worse."

Hospitals must deal with rising costs just like other parts of the healthcare system, she said, and California hospitals lost $6.65 billion last year caring for the uninsured. Hospitals rely on paying, well-insured patients to keep them afloat in the face of costly government regulations and low-paying government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, she said.

Exporting the best-paying patients, she said, "will only add to the woes of the entire healthcare system."
Read the whole thing.

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