Utah insurer to pay enrollees to buy prescriptions from Mexico

As healthcare prices and prescription drug costs continue to soar in the United States, one insurer in Utah is taking an innovative approach to reducing costs—by offering to pay its enrollees to fill prescription medications in Mexico, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

PEHP, a Utah-based health plan that covers 160,000 public employees and family members, has rolled out a pharmacy tourism option to some of its enrollees, which will allow them to fly to San Diego, go to Tijuana, Mexico, and take a $500 cash payout to buy their medicines there. The option applies to some patients who need certain expensive drugs for multiple sclerosis (MS), cancer and autoimmune disorders, covering about a dozen drugs, the Tribune reported.

One drug under the policy that treats MS, Avonex, costs about $6,700 for a 28-day supply in the U.S., but only about $2,200 in Tijuana.

The option was rolled out as a result of new legislation that required insurance plans of state employees to offer savings rewards to patients who choose cheaper providers.

“Why wouldn’t we pay $300 to go to San Diego, drive across to Mexico and save the system tens of thousands of dollars?” state Rep. Norman Thurston, R-Provo, who sponsored the legislation calling for incentives, told the Tribune. “If it can be done safely, we should be all over that.”

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