“About 10 years ago, we began to experience burgeoning demand for health care services from international visitors, particularly Canadians, during high season,” explains David Renker, Vice President, Major Gifts, and Director of Eisenhower Primary Care 365 and Canadian programs. “While the valley’s population in the summer is roughly 450,000, in winter it swells to more than 700,000, many of which are Canadian.”
“So we’ve developed a program to help these visitors navigate the Eisenhower Health system more efficiently, making access to our care resources faster, easier and more economical,” he says.
“The first thing we did was to establish cash pricing for treatment at our urgent care centers in Rancho Mirage, Palm Springs and La Quinta,” Renker continues. “When someone from Canada comes into one of our centers with a sprained ankle, for example, they know upfront what their care will cost. We charge an all-inclusive price based on the severity of the condition being treated.”
“Many Canadian citizens buy travelers health insurance that covers them while they’re in the United States,” he notes, “so they simply submit their receipt for urgent care and get reimbursed.”
The second initiative Eisenhower Health has developed for international visitors is bundled cash pricing for certain orthopedic surgical procedures that are in great demand by Canadian citizens.
“While Canada’s national health system has a lot of positive aspects, the wait for elective joint replacement surgery can be up to eighteen months,” says Renker. “For someone who needs a hip, knee or shoulder replacement, delaying surgery for that long can be pretty painful.”
“With efficient scheduling and care coordination, we’re able to complete the entire joint replacement process in six to eight weeks, from the patient’s initial visit through rehabilitation,” he continues. “We’ve bundled all the components of these procedures into a single fixed-price package which is paid for upfront. It includes the initial assessment visit with one of our orthopedic surgeons, diagnostic imaging, the surgery itself, anesthesia, any necessary postoperative follow-up visits and postop physical therapy.”
“As a result, we’re able to give Canadian patients one simple, all-inclusive bill which they pay upfront — instead of multiple bills for physician fees, facilities fees, anesthesia and so on,” Renker notes. “Most importantly, they’re able to have surgery that greatly improves their quality of life in a much shorter timeframe.”
For international visitors who spend several months in the Coachella Valley each year, establishing a relationship with a local primary care physician makes good sense. Eisenhower Health has streamlined access to this resource as well.
“Many of our Canadian visitors have a physician back home, so they feel comfortable relying on our urgent care centers if they need medical attention while they’re in the desert,” says Renker. “But about half of our Canadian visitors are here for several months at a time. If they’re older and have pre-existing conditions, it can be reassuring to have a local doctor who can manage their care — someone they know and who knows them.”
For these patients, Eisenhower offers two options. The first is traditional primary care in which the patient has an office visit with their selected Eisenhower physician. Cash pricing has been established for Canadian visitors so they can see a doctor without concerns about insurance coverage. Cash rates are also available for any lab work, imaging or other testing that might be required.
The second option is to enroll in the Eisenhower Primary Care 365 program. This popular program emphasizes continuous communication between doctor and patient through in-person office visits as well as virtual visits from the patient’s home — whether here in the desert or in Canada — via a secure online portal.
For a modest annual membership fee (plus the cost of office visits), Eisenhower Health physicians and care teams are available to serve patient needs 365 days a year. For seasonal residents, Eisenhower physicians coordinate with the patient’s doctors back home, a seamless approach that ensures all caregivers are on the same page when it comes to the patient’s care and medical records.
“One of the most valued features of the Eisenhower 365 program is that members are able to see their primary care physician within two or three days,” Renker notes. “For patients who are on their own, it can take six to eight weeks to see a primary care doctor due to the shortage of these physicians here in the desert — and all over the country, in fact.”
Canadian citizen Jim Laing, 78, spends five months a year in the desert, leasing a house at Bermuda Dunes Country Club. The rest of the time he lives in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.
Over the past eight years, the retired radio sports announcer has utilized a number of Eisenhower’s health care services, including primary care, cardiac (heart) and pulmonary (lung) care, and treatment for neck pain and vertigo.
“Quick and easy access is the number-one selling point,” he says. “While my health concerns are covered by universal health care back home, and it’s excellent once you get ‘over the wall’ — enduring the wait for certain services — I count on Eisenhower Health for issues that need to be resolved sooner rather than later. Who wants to hobble around because it’s not your turn?”
“With Eisenhower, I’m seen in a reasonable amount of time, I get a discount that makes care affordable, and the medical professionals here are first-rate,” he adds. “What’s not to like?”
For more information about a specific procedure or to find a family doctor that is right for you, call 855.362.2262. Or visit EisenhowerHealth.org/Canada.