A New Twist on Overseas Coverage

The Los Angeles Times reported last week about a new trend in overseas coverage — employers are sending their plan participants to hospitals in India and Thailand for surgical procedures.

[Dr. Arnold} Milstein, of Mercer Health & Benefits, says hospital quality is not a major worry [at these particular overseas facilities] because over the years, the same agency that accredits most American hospitals for participation in Medicare [JCAHCO] * * * has accredited 88 foreign hospitals through a joint international commission.

Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, and Apollo Hospitals in India, for example, are internationally recognized institutions. Despite the Third World conditions outside, the hospitals resemble five-star hotels and are equipped with the latest technology, American patients have reported. Many of the doctors are trained in the U.S., and visiting Americans are pampered around the clock, they have said.

A coronary artery bypass surgery costs about $6,500 at Apollo Hospitals in India, Milstein estimated. The average price in California is $60,400.

The article mentions a North Carolina employer with 2,000 employees that contracted with a medical tourism agency IndUSHealth to arrange for surgical care in India. What next?