Donna Ferguson went from Mississippi to Cancun, Mexico, to get knee replacement surgery. This is an example of “medical tourism,” which Americans are familiar with, as medical procedures are much less expensive in other countries. But in this case, it was not only the patient who traveled, but her doctor, too! Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Parisi flew to Cancun from Wisconsin to meet Ferguson. And Ferguson’s medical insurance paid for it.
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Ferguson gets her health coverage through her husband’s employer, Ashley Furniture Industries. The cost to Ashley was less than half of what a knee replacement in the United States would have been. That’s why its employees and dependents who use this option have no out-of-pocket copayments or deductibles for the procedure; in fact, they receive a $5,000 payment from the company, and all their travel costs are covered.
Parisi, who spent less than 24 hours in Cancun, was paid $2,700, or three times what he would get from Medicare, the largest single payer of hospital costs in the United States. Private health plans and hospitals often negotiate payment schedules using the Medicare reimbursement rate as a floor.
At least one American business has sprung up to arrange these cost-saving trips for a fee, which is also covered by the insurance companies. Read about medical tourism on steroids at Kaiser Health News. -via TYWKIWDBI