HSM, provider of integrated seating solutions for school buses, launched a global healthcare program five years ago that has since saved the company nearly $10 million in medical insurance costs.
HSM said about 250 employees have taken advantage of the program, which gives them the option of traveling to Costa Rica or India for medical procedures. Participants Joy Guion and Gary Harwell shared their stories with ABC News in late September. “World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline” spotlighted the innovative employee healthcare program by documenting their recent trip to Costa Rica to have weight loss and knee replacement surgery, respectively.
Tim Isenhower (pictured above), director of benefits at HSM, discussed the company’s successful program and reflected on what the rising trend of “medical tourism” says about the state of U.S. healthcare. Nearly one million Americans have travelled abroad for healthcare procedures to save money, according to ABC News.
“The American healthcare system, quite frankly, is broken at the moment. The error rates are probably the highest in the world, and the cost is also the highest in the world,” Isenhower told “Nightline.”
One example of the nation's skyrocketing healthcare costs is the price of medical equipment here compared to other countries.
“Last week we had a hospital in Texas, for two partial knee replacements, (charging) $90,000 for the two devices alone. So, in Costa Rica that’s probably about $3,000, a big difference,” said Isenhower, adding that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act may give Americans even more options in the future.
Guoin, a current HSM employee, and Harwell, a retired plant manager, both called the global healthcare program “a win-win situation.” At age 39, Guoin has severe chronic obesity and a family history of diabetes and heart disease. Even with insurance, she could not afford $3,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Yet Guoin and Harwell (pictured at left) paid nothing out of pocket in Costa Rica, because HSM covered their 10-day trip: passports, airline tickets, four-star hotel accommodations before and after the procedure, a private room in a private hospital, surgical consultations, the procedure itself, a personal driver and a patient assistant to help with forms, answer questions and assist with translation.
Additionally, once their bandages come off, Guoin and Harwell will each receive a check for $2,500, or 20 percent of what HSM saved as a result of their decision to go abroad for their procedure.
Before his knee surgery, Harwell said he’d resigned himself to living with severe knee pain the rest of his life.
“I feel like it’s been slowing me down because I’m not able to do the things I need to do,” Gary said, stressing that this surgery would change his life.
Both patients did their research beforehand and found a surgeon who had earned a medical degree in Latin America and received additional training in the U.S. After their procedures, they told “Nightline” they felt grateful. They spent a week recuperating in their posh rooms, with daily visits from a private nurse and free cellphone calls to family, also covered by HSM.
In the U.S. the knee replacement surgery would have cost $51,892, but in Costa Rica the price tag was $23,531 — less than half. The cost of the gastric-sleeve surgery would have been about $30,000 in the U.S., but it was $17,000 in Costa Rica.
Added Harwell: “As I’ve said all along, it’s just kind of a no-brainer.”