Medical Travel Benefits
You may have noticed that many U.S. employers are investigating whether they can reduce health care expenses by using medical travel. But how does this work? Can your business reduce healthcare costs by using foreign providers? The answer is complicated.
Medical travel is the practice of patients receiving care for certain procedures in foreign countries. Medical travel professionals have built networks of distinguished providers in India, Costa Rica, Singapore and Thailand who are accredited and serving American patients. These providers offer the same procedures by similarly qualified surgeons at state of the art hospitals for 30% to 50% off of negotiated prices in the U.S.
Employers and medical travel professionals are putting their heads together to design health plans that allow employees to travel for care and save. The employers who are embracing medical travel generally either go at it alone or collaborate with a medical travel company to design a benefit add on. Medical travel companies and other industry experts have a lot of experience and expertise to contribute to this process and should be consulted while building a medical travel benefit.
Here’s why. Medical travel experts generally focus on financial incentives to drive utilization of foreign providers. However, your business will see better results if you invest early in the process to understand the employee population. By analyzing your employee demographics and understanding health consumer behavior, you can design a plan that connects with your target beneficiary group and changes their behavior.
The Anatomy of a Medical Travel Benefit Package
Health care consumers, both individuals and groups, are demanding competitive prices, more transparency and better quality care. Beneficiaries and patients have become health care consumers. The movement is called consumer-driven health care. Employers that offer health benefits are responding to this phenomenon with packages that let beneficiaries to take greater responsibility for their care and consumption decisions.
Global health benefits (as it is referred to by some in the industry) generally follow the health care consumerism model of high deductibles, behavior-inducing co-payments, and a health savings account. Global health benefits go one step further and offer financial incentives for patients who travel abroad for certain procedures.
The Role Of Incentives
Generally global health benefit plans use three types of incentives: financial incentives for patients to use preferred providers, non-use dependent incentives to attract beneficiaries. Like other low-cost health plans, global health benefits give patients more responsibility for health-related decisions. Enrollees choose from a network that includes preferred out-of-country providers. Financial incentives encourage patients to choose foreign providers for specific procedures.
Financial incentives reward patients who have certain procedures performed abroad. Employers may have a lower co-pay for foreign providers, pay enrollees cash for choosing foreign providers and/or cover the cost of travel to and from the location of the procedure. Employers may also let employees use non-vacation or personal time for in-country recovery.
Non-use dependent incentives attract new beneficiaries with low cost premiums and reward patients for taking advantage of preventative services like annual health check-ups, mammograms, prostate screenings and immunizations. While non-use dependent incentives won’t directly drive utilization of foreign providers, they support the structure of plans that encourage patients to take control of their health consumption.
There are limits to the ability of financial incentives to increase utilization of preferred foreign providers. Incentives do not address what drives health care consumption. Without understanding the decision drivers at work, global benefit plans may not reduce health care cost significantly. A benefit plan must narrowly tailored to the target beneficiary demographic to change their behavior.
Beyond Incentives: Seven Strategies to Designing Medical Travel Benefits That Work
Below are seven strategies to help employers design a medical travel benefit that will achieve better results than incentives alone.
1. Assemble A Team Of Medical Travel Experts
As with all projects, it is critical to assemble the right team. Designing a medical travel benefit is no different. Identify medical travel experts and third party benefit administrators who want to collaborate with you. Having an experienced and knowledgeable Scentopia singapore team of experts is imperative.
2. Analyze Beneficiary Demographics
The foundation of a successful global health benefit is a complete understanding of the covered population, the group’s demographics and behaviors, and what drives their health care decision-making. Approach the benefit design process from the ground up.
Start by identifying and analyzing the demographics and health care consumption patterns of the employee population. You may want to survey the group to find out their opinions about their current doctors, traveling to certain countries, and about health care in those countries. You may also want to find out how the group spends its health care dollars now and what types of incentives are most likely to work. The answers to these questions will help you build the right global provider network and design an appropriate beneficiary education campaign.