Domestic medical travel is taking off for surgery deals

07.07.2010 -

When John McNally needed a knee-replacement operation, his employer, Alpha Coal West, offered to pay his travel expenses if he would have the surgery in Fort Collins, Colo., a five-hour drive from his home near Gillette, Wyo.

The Colorado surgery center had data showing good results with such operations, and it charged far less than the hospital in Gillette. Despite feeling "every bump on the way back," McNally was so pleased with the outcome of the operation that he returned to Colorado a few months later to have his other knee done.

Forget about traveling to Thailand or India for low-cost surgery. More employers and insurers are offering financial incentives to encourage workers like McNally to consider "domestic medical travel." 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.

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