I nearly choked on my Cheerios when I read this in last week’s Economist:

Until recently, few Americans went abroad for medical treatment. Over the past decade, however, that has begun to change. Americans seeking medical care are increasingly making trips far from home, often at their own expense—not just short hops to Caracas for a nip and tuck or dashes across the frontera for cheap Mexican pills …

… Hannaford, a grocery chain based in New England, now offers its 27,000 employees the option of getting a number of medical procedures done in Singapore rather than America—at a saving to the employee of $2,500-3,000 in co-payments and deductibles.

It’s true. Hannaford’s, as are other companies, is outsourcing its healthcare.

From Managed Care magazine:

Hannaford’s new coverage policy was prompted by stinging criticism from its European owners, says Hayes. For them, says the benefits manager, medical costs and outcomes in the United States just don’t add up.

“Look at what they’re spending in the United States,” says the benefits manager. “It’s two or three times what they’re spending in any other industrialized country. But if you look at quality, based on disability-adjusted life years (the international yardstick combining mortality and morbidity), we’re ranked dead last. So the Europeans said, why is health care going up at this extraordinary rate in the United States?”

Actually, employees can’t get liver transplants in Singapore. Yet.

So far, Hannaford is offering only hip replacement, but there are other possibilities: “back surgery, spinal fusions, and we’re not sure what else,” adds Hayes. “Down the road, having images read abroad is something that we might do.”

Why is a story about health insurance and operations showing up in a blog about real estate?

I have no idea.

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