Travel: That’s the ticket Quincy businessman thinks he has answer to increasing medical care costs

by Brent Lang ,  The Patriot Ledger | 2009-08-05

Medical costs are skyrocketing. In response, the federal government is debating a dramatic overhaul to the country’s health care system.

But one Quincy-based insurance underwriter thinks Congress has it all wrong. William McKelvey of Hingham claims he’s found a better way to lower costs and improve care.

McKelvey’s 13-person company, AMF Risk Management Solutions, is hawking a plan it calls U.S. Health Options. McKelvey, 66, says it forces local hospitals to compete for patients’ elective surgeries by urging participants to travel domestically to other hospitals that offer the same operations at lower prices.

The idea evolved from the company’s previous efforts to interest employers in a plan that encouraged participants to seek cheaper medical options in countries such as Costa Rica and India. McKelvey says in researching that initiative, he discovered that many hospitals offered substantial cost savings within the United States, sparing policy holders the unpleasantness of a flight to Bangalore for reconstructive surgery. Now he just needs to find companies willing to take a chance on his new approach.

McKelvey, who has owned his business for more than 30 years, believes the current health care system is weighted to protect insurance providers and hospitals.

Do you think Americans are interested in traveling around the country to receive cheaper medical care?

I do and studies back me up. Deloitte Touche did a survey recently in which 88 percent of survey participants said they would go out of their community for treatment if outcomes were better and there were cost savings. That’s how I came to be in the international medical travel business in 2008, without success, I must say, unfortunately. It was too far off the edge.

Now we’re hoping this will work domestically. We’ve found that you could pay $50,000 or $60,000 in Massachusetts, and get that same hip replaced at the Indiana Orthopedic Center for $20,000. It’s not as good a price as you’d get in Costa Rica, but it’s easier to travel there. And we’d pay for airfare and accommodations for you and a companion.

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