POLICY/HOSPITALS: Outsourcing West Virginia’s Health Care

THCB can’t claim to focus much on health policy (or anything else going on) in West Virginia. Bob Coffield, who writes the Health Law Blog, does a bit more, probably because he lives there. And he picked up this very interesting one. Apparently there’s a bill in the legislature that will allow (and presumably eventually if it’s going to have an impact, force) state employees to go overseas to get elective care. Pretty interesting stuff, and it means that hospitals there may have to compete with those in Thailand and India on price. Gulp.

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  1. Why medical tourism?
    According to the US Census Bureau over 46 million Americans were uninsured in 2005. Rising healthcare costs coupled with overwhelming number of the uninsured makes one wonder – where do Americans get their medical treatments? A medical tourism phenomenon is a logical response of market economy to the imbalance between demand, supply and price in the US healthcare.
    Difference in price is main reason for patients to seek medical care abroad. Without a doubt, many comprehensive medical and dental procedures are more affordable abroad yet the quality is outstanding! Many think that lower prices equal lower quality but it is not the case. The prices are lower not because the quality is jeopardized but because the healthcare systems are different. There are no third party payers involved in the process.
    We want to hear from you: Would you consider medical tourism as an option for you or your family members? Please share you pro and con arguments.
    For more information: http://www.slavmed.com
    Contact Us: contact@slavmed.com

  2. State employers benefit from medical tourism by saving State money which they can invest in other areas. State employees also benefit in various ways by electing to receive their healthcare abroad – they get top quality healthcare (with equal or superior outcomes compared to the US), they do not have to pay anything out of their pocket, they get the opportunity to travel overseas, and even enjoy part of the cost savings. The State uses the savings in another area of public service/utility and its the State employees who are directly going to benefit from it. So, for the State employees there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing to go overseas for healthcare.
    Most Americans who choose to receive their healthcare abroad go to hospitals that are internationally accredited with JCI/JCAHO/ISO accreditations. This means that the same organization that monitors US hospitals also runs quality and standard checks on those international hospitals. Also, the surgeons in those hospitals are US/UK trained so they know the expectations of their patients.
    For more information log on to http://www.healthbase.com.

  3. Ancina HealthCare, Inc. located in Fairfax, virginia offers medical travel to individuals who require planned surgery, either essential or cosmetic.
    We work with JCAHO accredited and/or ISO certified hospitals in India, staffed by physicians and surgeons with international education and rich clinical experience. Cost saving could be as much as 80%.
    Contact –
    Jay Bose
    Ancina HealthCare

  4. The medical tourism industry is booming. In addition to the company mentioned there are many other medical tourism companies. Some focusing more on the tourism aspect and ‘lighter’ procedures such as dentistry and cosmetic surgery and others focusing more on the medical aspect and ‘heavier’ procedures such as heart bypass and knee/hip replacements.
    Wouter Hoeberechts

  5. Does anyone know the current status of Canterbury’s bill regarding outsourcing healtcare in West Virgina? Thanks!

  6. “Beauty from Afar: A Medical Tourist’s Guide to Affordable and Quality Cosmetic Care Outside the U.S.” (July 2006) covers the phenomenon of medical tourism generally and is also a consumer guide.
    I’m the author. More information on the book at:
    Jeff Schult

  7. If people have the money and want to go off-shore for elective surgical procedures they should be allowed to go. You can’t legislate peoples freedom to go where they want for healthcare. Sounds unconstitutional to me. Probably the biggest thing that will scare most off though will be the inability to sue if things go wrong. I am sure the tort system in India is not as favorable to plaintiffs as it is here in the good ol’ USA!

  8. Excellent point Matthew. West Virginia’s health care system is already very vulnerable b/c we have such a high rate of governmental payor and large unisured population due to age of population and low income.
    We have not seen the same impact on our community/rural acute care hospitals due to the proliferation of speciality hospitals and physician owned facilities due to a very restrictive cerficate of need regulatory system. However, this off-shore approach to health care would have a similar impact and the CON law would not provide any regulatory protections. I’ll plan to update you on the legislation at the end of the session.

  9. ….except that it won’t escape your attention that the type of stuff that is easily exportable is the defined, elective surgery that hospitals and docs make their highest profit margins on here. And from which they cross-subsidize the less well paying stuff that can’t be off-shored–like care of the chronically ill, trauma care, etc
    If this gets big, it mught be another “specialty hospitals” issue

  10. I agree with the above comments. The EU (Europe) is already seeing a fair amount of ‘medical tourism’.
    Empowering patients to make decisions in their own health and financial interests is only a good thing.
    Progressive ‘outsourcing’ of healthcare delivery should bring the issue of over-regularion in US healthcare to the front burner.

  11. “Medical Tourism” is an interesting off-shoot of consumer-driven healthcare quickly attracting both customers and providers. [1] IndUShealth, for instance, is a NC-based company selling travel-agency-like serivces to medical tourists. [2]
    According to the Jan/Feb issue of Health Affairs, the prices for the same surgeries can be up to 800% higher in the US than they are in India. [3]
    Michael F. Cannon’s new book published by the Cato Institute covers the phenomenon in more detail. [4]
    Trapier K. Michael
    [1] CBS News, “Medical Tourism: Need Surgery, Will Travel,” 18 June 2004, http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/healthcare/medicaltourism.html (15 April 2005).
    [2] http://www.indushealth.com
    [3] SH Altman, D Shactman, E Eilat, “Could U.S. Hospitals Go The Way Of U.S. Airlines?”, Health Affairs, Vol.25, No.1, 11-20.
    [4] MF Cannon, MD Tanner, “Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It,” Cato Institute, Washington, DC, 2005.

  12. Thanks for the mention Matthew. I’m interested to know whether any of your readers have seen this concept introduced in any other states?
    I’m intrigued by the idea – especially the concept that part of the savings is given directly to the state employee/patient. A direct incentive to the state employee who takes the intiative to understand the costs associated with their own health care.
    Also check out the associated website link put up by the Delegate sponsoring the bill. I added it after seeing a reference to it in the afternoon newspaper here in Charleston WV.
    I’ll be interested follow you readers comments on the bill. thanks, bob coffield