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Companies explore overseas healthcare

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More companies – especially those with smaller company-run plans – are investigating people's claims of good overseas hospital care. The International Standards Organization in Geneva accredits these hospitals and audits American hospitals, too.

Companies are also attracted to the relatively inexpensive price tag for care at foreign hospitals, which have been reported to be up to 80 percent less than in the US. In New Delhi, for example, the Apollo chain of hospitals gives resort-style convalescence care for $87 a night.

•Insurers Health Net of California already contracts with medical clinics on the Mexico side of the US border.

•A West Virginia state legislator introduced a bill this year that would encourage state workers to seek treatment overseas using incentives such as cash bonuses and family travel.

•United Group Programs in Florida, which administers self-insurance programs for small companies, has contracted with a Thailand hospital for its employer clients.

•Inquiries from self-insured employers are brisk at IndUShealth in Raleigh, N.C., which specializes in offshoring serious medical cases such as rotator cuff surgery and gall bladder removal to India.

"We're dealing mostly with companies that are self-funded and have essentially run out of options," says IndUShealth president Tom Keesling. "It's an amazing trend, and it speaks to the tremendous frustration people feel with how to provide healthcare services in our current environment."

Blue Ridge Paper Products, which makes the DairyPak milk carton, pleaded unsuccessfully with providers for discounts for its 5,000 covered workers. In the past five years, the company established its own clinic and pharmacy. Blue Ridge decided to try overseas healthcare after it heard that hospitals "rolled out the red carpet" to American patients based on news reports and personal accounts from a North Carolina medical traveler brought in by IndUShealth.

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