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Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters ~ An Interview with Ross Pendergraft


Medical Tourism Association: Ross, you are the President of the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters (LAAHU) and you’ve been in the health insurance industry for over 17 years. Can you tell us a little about your background and history and also explain for those that don’t know what LAAHU is?

Ross: I have represented Arroyo Insurance Services in Los Angeles, California since 1996. Arroyo Insurance Services continues to rank in the top 15 agencies in the Los Angeles area.

It is with great pride and passion that I provide my clients with superior, cost-effective services and products that meet the ever-changing needs of the agency’s current and prospective clients, all the while continuing to strive for the highest professional excellence in the delivery of those services and products. In addition to my insurance marketing and services, I continue to be a committed advocate of both wellness and medical tourism; two things that I believe will be critical factors in the future of health care.

A true professional needs to give back to his or her profession. This is why I am a very active member in the National Association of Health Underwriters where I currently serve on the Board of Directors for one of the largest local chapters, the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters (LAAHU). I am currently serving as President for the 2009-2010 term. My passion for our association really showed when I was recently recognized for recruiting the most new members in California.

LAAHU’s mission is to help our members thrive in a health care system that is accessible and fair to all through both private and public sectors.

MTA: You recently had medical tourism as a major topic at LAAHU’s last annual conference – why are you such a big fan and supporter of medical tourism?

Ross: The health insurance industry continues to evolve and change continuously. For the health insurance broker and agent who want to provide the best service to their clients, they must continue to educate themselves and stay abreast of all the latest developments.

Medical tourism is one of these newest developments for people here in the U.S. To begin with, it is a very well known fact that we have a health care system in the U.S. that is failing to provide us with an affordable means of health care. The rising cost of health care has just simply gotten out of control with more and more people unable to afford health care, leaving them vulnerable to either going without or leaving them strapped with hospital and doctor bills that they are unable to pay.

This is where medical tourism can play a vital role in dealing with the high cost of medical care. When people learn that you can receive high quality medical care outside the U.S. at about 20 to 30 cents on the dollar, they begin to understand the concept. It becomes even more viable when they also discover that many of hospitals and doctors outside the U.S. have as much and sometimes even higher ratings than those in the U.S.

Although cost can be a major attraction to medical tourism, there are many other advantages to medical tourism that can be just as important and vital to a person’s decision. I believe the public is going to start hearing more and more about “best medical outcomes.” People are now demanding to know which doctors and hospitals statistically provide the best surgical and/or procedural results for the specific condition or diagnosis they have.

This is another excellent example of where medical tourism can provide better outcomes outside the U.S. whether it is because this surgery or procedure is only practiced outside the U.S. or they just perform better.

MTA: What are your predictions regarding the adoption of medical tourism by employers and insurance companies in the next few years? Where do you see the industry headed?

Ross: I wish I could say that employers and insurance companies would take to medical tourism like a fish to water but it seems a harder market than I expected. What I do know is that many of the employer groups of 1,000 or more employees that self insure their medical plans have started incorporating medical tourism into their employee medical plans. With the cost of medical care soaring out of control in the U.S., large employers are seeking viable means to better control their medical insurance costs.

There is another important fact that many people do not realize: if we were to somehow magically fix the unaffordable cost of health care, there are not enough doctors in the U.S. to provide care to every single person that lives in the U.S.

The bottom line is that Americans are going to become more and more reliant on receiving their health care outside the U.S. When Medicare was first introduced it did not provide prescription coverage and now we have Part D Prescription Plans. I think we will see a similar situation whereby a need for this product, medical tourism, is present, making it standard in the coverage we provide.

There are a lot more advantages to medical tourism and I could probably spend the rest of the day discussing just some of these. I would just encourage anyone wanting to provide their clients with the best information to take a serious look at medical tourism.

MTA: Will you be attending the upcoming World Medical Tourism & Global Health Congress in Los Angeles this year at October 26-28th?

Ross: Not only will I be attending the next World Medical Tourism & Global Health Congress in Los Angeles in the fall, I will be encouraging other insurance brokers and agents to attend as well. I attended this same event last year when it was held in San Francisco and what I got out of it and came away with was absolutely unbelievable.

The speakers, the in-depth sessions and the quality of exhibitors from all around the world made this an event that added more value to my profession than I had ever expected or imagined. Perhaps the most enjoyable and most beneficial part of this event was the networking opportunities. I cannot say that I have ever been to another event where I have made so many valuable and worthwhile contacts in such a short period of time.

I could take a lot time trying to tell people why they should attend the next World Medical Tourism & Global Health Congress but it is never going replace the actual fantastic experience you will receive from being a part of this wonderful event. I look forward to expanding and increasing my knowledge in this vital new area we call medical tourism, along with meeting new people I will be fortunate enough to call my friends.

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