Insurers investigate medical tourism to save money on care

by KAREN PALLARITO ,  Business Insurance | 2006-12-11


Intrigued by the promise of up to 80% savings, many U.S. health insurers are at least investigating the possibility of allowing patients to travel overseas for certain major surgeries such as hip and knee replacements and heart bypass, insurers, consultants and travel arrangers say.

CIGNA HealthCare and Aetna Inc. are among major U.S. insurers exploring the concept of outsourcing some procedures to health care facilities outside the United States.

"At this point, we're really assessing (the option) so we can be in a better position to educate and consult with our employer groups," said Jackie Aube, vp of product at CIGNA HealthCare in Bloomfield, Conn. Although, she added, it's too soon to say how the company will proceed.

Meanwhile, Aetna is "starting to explore putting an offering together for our plan sponsors or individual members at their request," said Martha Temple, a vp and head of Aetna Global Benefits in Hartford, Conn.

Some insurers already allow members to seek care abroad as an out-of-network benefit, but few offer products that leverage international cost savings for their domestic clients. Whether insurers will forge ahead with new offerings or wait while self-insured employers test the waters is unclear.



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