Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina is one of the first U.S-based health insurer to develop a formal relationship with a foreign-based hospital.
The company expects to add 12 additional hospitals to its international network during the next year.
While several of the nation’s largest Blues told The AIS Report that they were investigating similar strategies, South Carolina is a pioneer among health insurers.
In March, the company launched a subsidiary to schedule appointments, make travel arrangements and answer questions about services and prices for overseas medical services.
That subsidiary, Companion Global Healthcare, recently affiliated with its first hospital – Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok. The hospital has 150 U.S. certified doctors and treats more than 400,000 international patients each year, including 80,000 Americans.
The state-of-the-art facility also is accredited by the Joint Commission International – the international arm of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits hospitals in the United States. JCI has accredited more than 100 hospitals in 23 countries, including Turkey, Ethiopia and India.
After reading articles about medical tourism, David Boucher, assistant vice president of health care services for Companion Global and the South Carolina Blue Cross plan, decided to investigate the hospital in Thailand. A former hospital CEO, Boucher said he conducted an informal JCI-style survey during a five-day visit.
“I gowned up and went everywhere in the hospital,” he said. “I spent a full day with the medical director, met with medical staff and investigated everything, including their nosocomial (hospital acquired) infection rates. I was thoroughly impressed.”
Boucher said he expects to add between nine and 12 more JCI-accredited facilities during the next year in Europe, India and Canada. As many as 1,200 South Carolina residents sought treatment overseas last year.
Boucher said that the overseas option could be an attractive alternative for uninsured people facing expensive procedures.
“A community might be able to raise $7,000 for someone’s travel and treatment, but $70,000 or $100,000 would be impossible.”