Companies to offer free foreign travel for their sick

Companies to offer free foreign travel for their sick

Summary: The self-insurer pockets big savings, plus they build loyalty because the employee isn't going to leave with a big HRA balance. The employee, meanwhile, may save enough to pay for the next year's premiums, or the birth of their next child.


As many as 40% of us who think we have insurance don't.

These are the people in self-insurance pools. Companies use insurers for administrative and back-office functions, but they basically manage their own risks, and pay the bills directly for employee care.

This gives them the power to bend the cost curve, and one way they might do it is through medical tourism.

Steven Lash, CEO of Satori Medical World, has a patent on how to do this. (Satori is a term used by Japanese Buddhists for a sudden flash of individual enlightenment.)

Here is how it works.

Lash has spent the last year building a network of hospitals around the world that offer first-rate care, based on international standards, at prices a fraction of what you would pay in the U.S., plus experience dealing with English-speaking patients.

"We are sending people to Mexico, to Monterrey. We hope to add Mexico City. At the first of the year they will be going to Panama and Costa Rica. Then we have the Philippines, India, Thailand, Turkey and Singapore."

Lash has also spent time calling on these self-insured companies, persuading them to his idea, trying to get a chance. "We would become embedded as a health care option for their clients. They would have a choice of going to five network options and we'd be the sixth. We don't replace the benefit. We become an option."

To make sure this works, Lash will also choose patients carefully. If you have co-morbidities, stay. If your case is just emerging, stay. The benefit will be offered to those who need a defined procedure only.

The savings here can be huge. The patent covers what happens to them.

"We have a business method patent whereby the employee gets to share in the savings through a deposit in a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA).

"If the savings are $40,000, the employer shares $8-10,000 with the employee and makes a deposit in their HRA. This money can then be used to do co-pays, deductibles and for further premiums."

HRAs are defined by the Treasury Department, and are different from Health Savings Accounts in that they are "100% employer funded, and non-portable. It rolls over. There's no limit on what you can put in. And it can pay for first dollar coverage."

There are incentives here for both sides. The self-insurer pockets big savings, plus they build loyalty because the employee isn't going to leave with a big HRA balance. The employee, meanwhile, may save enough to pay for the next year's premiums, or the birth of their next child.

Yes, you're exporting the practice of medicine overseas, but that's the market. Those with real insurance won't see this for years because such things need to go through state regulatory processes.

Lash has just built this machine, and Satori only sent out its first patient recently. A few more will go out in the fourth quarter, and as many as 200 next year. But "we have been getting quite a bit of traction" and it's easy to see why.

Health reform proponents are far too polite to charge opponents of reform with killing American jobs, so what can go wrong?

Topics: Health, CXO, IT Employment

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  • Wow, a great way to force our overpaid doctors to compete. Doctors should

    have a comfortable life, but, they do not need to
    earn 100x what they do in other countries.
    • Overpaid?

      Doctors make life and death decisions every day. How much do you think they should be paid?

      For the record, I have had several doctors who I considered friends. None of them were particularly well off. One was a surgeon, who saw yearly massive increases in the cost of his malpractice insurance, to the point where he was considering retirement. The others were GPs, and similarly burdened by extremely high insurance costs, especially those who practiced obstetrics.
      • yes, GROSSLY overpaid

        [b]Doctors make life and death decisions every day.[/b]

        So do cops. And firemen. And paramedics. And nurses. And pharmacists. Should I go on?

        [b]How much do you think they should be paid?[/b]

        Certainly not what doctors make today!! Let's start withe salaries of those named above. They certainly don't make chump change (around $100k in South FL), but they don't make $300k either.

        Obviously, a "fixed" number cannot be applied here, so a sliding scale should do, and it should ALWAYS be contingent to the time spent on the patient. For example: a $200/hr rate could be applied whereby the doctor sees me for 15 minutes and only gets to bill $50 for that time. NOT today's system of see me for 2 minutes then get paid $100 from my insurer, valuing the doctor at $3000 per hour-- that's just wasteful.

        Doctors in the US are always complaining about how "tight" their budgets are, but if you review their budgets (I have, and do, as many of my clients are docs), they waste left, right and center. For example, why do they need ALL of those assistants? Why paper files? In one case, I was able to reduce my client's staff overhead by $16000 per month by using a $20000 DMS/PMS system at a deployed cost of $28000, including the scanning of all existing records. Bottom line? 3 staffers no longer needed and the doctor? He's still seeing the same volume of patients, and when I asked him, why not reduce the volume and increase the time you spend with each, his response was (I kid you not):

        "I have to make as much money as I can before Obama tells me how much I can make."

        This coming from a guy with no debt, lives in a $2mil house, drives a 750il AND the Lexus 460 hybrid-- because he couldn't decide which he liked better, so he bought both. Greed has EVERYTHING to do with the fight over our health care system in the US.

        Don't get me wrong-- I like that my clients put money in pocket, but doctors, service providers, medical device manufacturers, and insurers are just siphoning excess profits out of a system with already limited resources. To plunder a system that is supposed to serve the greater good in such a manner is riddled with moral implications on par with manslaughter-- even if indirect. And I would gladly give up that money if the greater good would benefit from it.

        Now ask if anyone else in healthcare would do the same.
        • Clueless

          So, you go to the doctor and have to pay $50 for a 15 minute visit, so you assume that the doctor is pocketing $200/hr? Do you also believe the same for mechanics and plumbers? Ever hear of something called overhead?

          That doctor you visit has to pay for the facility that his business is in, the nurse that took your temp, the office staff at the window, the janitor who cleans up at the end of the day, and, last but certainly not least, the exorbitant insurance costs to cover his business against our sue happy society.

          The doctor that I mentioned who was suffocating under his insurance costs had just received his annual premium increase, which amounted to $75K increase for just that one year. That's is not $75K per year, but $75K more than he paid the year before. Who can afford that?

          None of the doctors that I have known have lived in extravagant houses or drove high end luxury cars. I assume that you are talking about specialists, who sometimes do make huge salaries. Most doctors are GPs, and I challenge you to provide data indicating that the salaries they make are out of line for someone with their level of education. Firemen and police officers provide a valuable and necessary service, but how many of them have doctors degrees? How does your physicians salary compare to someone with a doctorate in chemistry, engineering, or computer science? You talk about doctors plundering the system, but make no mention of attorneys getting rich off of malpractice suits.
  • and if there are complications?

    If a US citizen travels abroad for a procedure and returns home, who will treat any of their short or long-term complications?

    US doctors and hospitals. Worse, those professionals and institutions will most likely not have access to the patient's file, resulting in less than optimum care.

    This also serves to 'skew' the foreign physicians' and hospitals statistics positively because they don't have to report the complication on their record, providing false security to consumers and insurance providers.

    In the case of malpractice, who is held responsible? If US laws cannot persue foreign surgical residents who screw up and return to their country, then it certainly can't touch doctors and hospitals in other countries.

    In the end, plans like this only benefit the FOR PROFIT insurance companies. It leaves the consumer far too at risk.
  • Abuse of "software" patents.

    This is already going on with people flying to Thailand for gender reassignment surgery. Not mainstream, but predates his "enlightenment".
  • Ironic Twist

    OK, to improve American medical insurance this plan sets up medical treatment in another country. America supposedly has one of the most advanced medical systems and very few who can afford it without insurance.

    One of the main reasons people here go bankrupt is spending money on medical care to save their lives and blow through the insurance coverage and their savings in less than a month.

    Medical insurance in America is severely broken and the status quo increases the number of uninsured and underinsured. It might help if our congress critters were forced to use the same medical coverage they want the rest of us to use; they might finally get a clue how bad the situation is.
  • I like it.

    I wouldn't do this for a nose job, but if I had a
    choice of flying to Singapore or Mexico City for an
    operation, under full care & support of my insurance
    company, AND get cash back to pay for next years
    medical co-pays and such, I would do it in a
    heartbeat. If it saved me from having to sell my
    house to save my life - it's worth it. If we are
    talking cut-rate doctors just to save a thousand
    dollars, not so much. It's all a balancing act. By
    the way - anyone who knows a doctor that isn't "that
    well off" is fooling themselves or woefully living in
    a dreamworld. My dentist owns a Porsche, a Ferrari,
    and a Maserati - all bright red and loves parking them
    at his work. He only works three days a week. I
    drive a 10-year-old Toyota Camry and between me and my
    wife, we spent over $6,000 on our teeth this year (so
    far) and that's just for standard stuff - no implants
    or major surgery - fillings, crowns and root canals.
    That was WITH insurance - we shudder to think what it
    would have cost without it. If someone told me I
    could get all that done for $1,000 somewhere else,
    with the exact same care & degree of expertise, I
    would have jumped on it in a heartbeat.
  • Business-model patent ???

    What the hell is a "business-model patent"? Patents cover physical things, including things like chemical processes, not just ideas.
    • Business Method Patents

      They have been around for about a decade, about as long as software patents, and their use was restricted by the Supreme Court in re Bilski.

      But they still exist.