Utah insurer will pay for members' travel to Mexico to fill pricey prescriptions

In an effort to combat rising drug prices, one Utah health insurer will pay its members to travel to Mexico to fill prescriptions for certain expensive drugs, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

PEHP, based in Salt Lake City, covers 160,000 public employees and family members. The insurer is offering to buy its members plane tickets to San Diego and transportation to a "top-notch" clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. It also offers a $500 cash payout for patients willing to travel to fill prescriptions for expensive drugs for conditions like autoimmune disorders, cancer or multiple sclerosis.  

"That money is pretty small in comparison to the difference between U.S. prices and Mexico prices," Travis Tolley, clinical operations director for PEHP, told The Tribune.

The health insurer launched its "pharmacy tourism" program in response to Utah legislation that went into effect this fall. The law mandates that state employee insurance plans offer cash incentives to patients who choose cheaper providers or save the insurance company money in other ways.

The pharmacy tourism benefits apply to about a dozen drugs that are vastly cheaper in Mexico. One drug on the list, Avonex, which treats MS, costs $6,700 for a month's supply in the U.S., but just $2,200 through a clinic in Tijuana. Beneficiaries are capped at purchasing a three-month supply.

A three-month supply of the drug would save roughly $13,500, which more than covers the $500 reward and transportation. PEHP says transportation costs are typically less than $300 per person.

Patients choosing to go to Mexico for their prescriptions will be driven to a clinic that contracts with PEHP. The clinic is comparable to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., or Cleveland Clinic in the U.S., PEHP Director Chet Loftis told the Tribune.

PEHP has offered coverage for out-of-county medical procedures, commonly referred to as medical tourism, but many patients haven't used the option. The insurer said it hopes the cash incentives will push more patients to participate.


Read the full story here.

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