KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Patients Willing To Travel For Cheaper, Better Care; Especially When The Boss Pays

Employers, in search of better deals on surgeries, are in some cases sending employees they insure hundreds of miles for medical care, Kaiser Health News/USA Today reports. "Forget about traveling to Thailand or India for low-cost surgery. … By steering workers to facilities with high-quality care and lower prices, employers say they can reduce their costs 20% to 40% - more than enough to cover the travel expenses." Lowe's, the home-improvement store, is considering expanding its "domestic medical travel" program and other large employers have teamed up with Lowe's to expand their programs, too. Employers pay travel expenses for certain procedures when their workers get that at lower-cost facilities. If the trend spreads, "[i]t could shake up the hospital industry by fostering 'a truly national competition,'" a health care consultant said (Appleby, 7/7).

International medical travel remains attractive for value-minded customers, too. "A good smile can be a pricey proposition in the U.S., where barely half the population has dental insurance and routine procedures can run up four-figure bills," CNNMoney reports. "Want a porcelain crown for a damaged tooth? That'll cost $945, on average. Or you can step across the U.S. border and cut your tab to $250" (Zimmerman, 7/7).

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