Stories

Employers are sending patients and doctors abroad for medical care

American hospital care is so expensive that some employers are paying patients to receive care in other countries, and they're sending an American doctor with them to provide the care, the New York Times reports with Kaiser Health News.

Why it matters: Hospital care costs are so high in America that it makes financial sense for employers to pay their employees to receive care from an American doctor in another country. Think of what that means for the vast majority of Americans who don't have this opportunity.

By the numbers: One patient received a $5,000 payment from her husband's employer in addition to a total knee replacement free of cost-sharing in exchange for having the procedure done in Mexico. The company also covered the travel expenses.

  • The cost to the employer was still less than half of what it would have been in the U.S.
  • The doctor, who flew from Milwaukee to Cancun, was paid 3 times the Medicare rate for performing the surgery.

The big picture: Medical tourism is old news, but a Denver company has seen an opportunity and is organizing treatments abroad.

  • The company, North American Specialty Hospital, has a network of doctors — including the one in the anecdote above — who travel to Cancun on their days off to provide care for American patients.
  • NASH believes that having American doctors will help persuade self-insured employers that the care is high quality, and to offer the option to their workers.

Go deeper: High prescription drug prices drive "pharma tourism" in Mexico