Some people travel long distances to get cheaper medical treatment. United Airlines is testing whether employees will do the same.
The airline is encouraging workers across the country and their families to go to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago for hip and knee replacements as well as spinal fusion surgeries. To entice them, United is offering a generous benefit: The expenses for physician visits and the surgery are fully covered by United after employees meet the annual deductible on their insurance policies
There are no copays or coinsurance, which is the share of medical costs a policyholder is responsible for after meeting the deductible. United also pays for the employee and a companion to travel for the surgery, and recommends two guest houses that are on or near the Rush campus. Hip and knee replacements are expensive procedures that can cost as much $33,000, and by taking advantage of the program that rolled out earlier this year, patients could save thousands of dollars, the company said. But the perk is not just about saving employees money. United hopes that by partnering with a hospital with a track record of proven orthopedic care, workers will receive better care and have fewer complications afterward. If the surgery goes well, employees can return to work faster and save the company money by eliminating readmissions to the hospital.
“The entire motivation for us is the quality of the care,” said Anthony Scattone, vice president of Total Rewards, the name of United’s compensation and benefits program. “We’re getting at costs by improving quality.”