US domestic medical tourism gaining momentum


Medical tourism to foreign countries is not appealing to everyone. Long flights bring the risk of DVT and American doctors are often hesitant to give follow up treatment to somebody who went overseas, for medical liability insurance reasons. As healthcare costs can vary wildly within a state or across the country, people can save 20% to 40% by flying from one state to another.

The rather ad hoc domestic medical tourism industry is gaining momentum with websites where individuals and employers can compare local medical costs, packaged offerings from hospitals similar to what is available overseas, and an increasing number of agencies either specializing in this area or adding it as an option to going abroad.

Only a few of the agencies are geared up to deal with the corporate market and negotiate properly with US hospital groups. One of the market leaders is BridgeHealth Medical. Launched in 2007, the 20-employee company, based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, negotiates discounted rates with hospitals and offers those rates to US businesses that encourage employees to travel around the USA for treatment.

BridgeHealth began as an international medical tourism agency but added the domestic market in 2010 as employer feedback suggested that while a ten-hour plane trip and the time taken to get through security at international airports was not acceptable to employees, an internal 2-hour one was. Sales are up 25 % since it shifted the main focus to the domestic market, and domestic sales now account for more than 80 % of the company's business. The company partners with about 20 insurance companies that administer health benefits for self-insured employers, has deals with 30 hospitals around the USA, and has more than 200 US businesses as customers.  Companies with self-funded insurance plans benefit with 20% to 40 % savings on knee replacements and heart bypasses. Employers save money so encourage their employees to use the BridgeHealth plan by waiving co-payments and deductibles. Hospitals get access to patients they would otherwise not have, allowing them to fill empty beds.

A few US cities, regions and hospital groups are promoting themselves as domestic medical tourism destinations. Founded in 2010, Medical Tourism Arizona is a Scottsdale-based US medical tourism company promoting medical treatment in Arizona. A new website has been launched for surgery patients who are looking for affordable, safe options for their orthopedic procedures, including knee replacement and hip replacement surgery. Steven Greene of Medical Tourism Arizona says, “Medical tourism is a growing field, but there is so much misleading and just plain false information on the web. Our goal is to provide truth and transparency when it comes to professional orthopedic and medical travel services. You do not have to travel overseas to get inexpensive, quality healthcare. There are so many financial and safety reasons to have your surgery done right here in Scottsdale. We can eliminate the middlemen and red tape and ensure that patients save so much money, they can easily cover travel costs and luxury hotel accommodation."



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