Employers back medical tourism over US health care costs

(NewsNation) — Medical tourism is becoming more popular in the U.S. as inflation persists and many people find it difficult to receive affordable health care.

It saves people money, and some companies are even suggesting it to manage costs for both the company and the employee. Employees travel for both procedures and prescriptions that are covered by the employer.

“We pay for the flight. We pay for the hotel. We pay for a companion to go with them,” Tim Isenhower, an executive with HSM Solutions, said. He shared his experience taking advantage of his company’s medical tourism program with NewsNation.

Isenhower claimed medical tourism is gaining popularity and more U.S. companies, like his, are giving their employees the option to get surgeries outside the U.S. because it’s cheaper and the quality is just as good.

“I’ve always said it was a win-win situation, that we get no kickbacks from the hospital,” he said.

These medical tourism programs are attracting Americans to popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica and Mexico. Isenhower said they cherry-pick the locations its company partners with — one of which is located in Costa Rica, and he said they only use the Joint Commission hospitals in that country.

“A hip replacement abroad costs maybe $25,000. Here they’re $40,000. Knee replacements $30,000- $35,000 here, and $20,000 in Costa Rica. That’s an example of the savings,” Isenhower said.

Employees from North American Specialty Hospital who travel abroad for surgery have zero out-of-pocket expenses. The CEO of North American Specialty Hospital, Michael Agostino, said it’s not just surgeries that are saving money.

“If you take our benefit design, and travel down to Cancun by sponsorship from your employer group, the savings back to the employer group range anywhere from 24% to 55%. And when you’re talking about an average drug cost of $3,500 to $5,000, that’s a big saving,” Agostino said.

Since 2007, HSM Solutions has given its employees the medical tourism option. Since then, Isenhower has taken two trips to Mexico.

“I don’t see a negative. I take advantage of the program, my family takes advantage of the program,” Isenhower said.

He continued, “It’s all a positive to me, and I had a hip replacement in Cancun just in September … instead of me worried about my hip replacement, I was excited about going to Cancun, Mexico, to hang out on the beach for a few days before I had my hip replacement. So, it’s a whole different mindset.”

American Jessica Ippoliti said she traveled to Cancun, Mexico, for cosmetic surgery. She told NewsNation that it was an incredible experience, saying she felt more relaxed and safe during her recovery in Mexico than she has after recovering at home in America.

It has been a month since Ippoliti’s surgery, but she said she’s feeling great so far.

“In my medical vacation, they really take care of you in any way. They’re there every single day. If you need anything, you can call or text them. So I felt like even though I didn’t have somebody there with me, they were there for me and with me at the same time setting up all my appointments,” she said.

She continued, “I was just really, really taken by the whole thing … I was able to truly relax and heal.”

Ippoliti said she only spent about $13,000 for her entire medical experience in Mexico, explaining she saved a little of $10,000.

Not all companies and insurance offer this program, but the bottom line is people are trying to save money any way possible. Experts, however, say they should prioritize vetting their doctor and the surrounding area, and a trip out of the U.S. for a medical procedure can be risky.

NewsNation writer Devan Markham contributed to this report.


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