Affordable Health Care not so Affordable: Medical Tourism as an Alternative


With the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) forcing individuals and business to figure out the governments failing roll-out, potential patients are looking, now more than ever at medical tourism, as an alternative source of medical care, and as well businesses are taking a serious look at this option that could save thousands of dollars per employee.

Each year the United States spends $2 trillion+ on health care, and even with insurance plans, regular American patients are footing huge medical bills for their medical care. Because of this patients are turning to medical tourism as a viable alternative to medical care in the USA.

To give you an idea how fast this phenomenon has grown in recent years, in 2007 an estimated 180,000 patients travel abroad for medical care, compare that to 2012 where an estimated 600,000 traveled abroad for treatments and although number are not final for 2013 estimates for this year are pushing 1,000,000 medical travelers.

80 percent of North Americans traveling abroad for medical tourism are baby boomers

The U.S’s baby-booming population is gradually being forced out of health care services due to the excessive prices, limited coverage for per-existing conditions and as these baby boomers retire, their employment coverage, often a co-pay plan, expires leaving them with the burden of paying all costs and hefty premiums.

In order to reduce medical costs and still receive the care they need, baby-boomers are taking trips abroad to lower priced hospitals and facilities across the globe — and these medical facilities overseas are enthusiastically welcoming these medical tourists.

According to statistics a medical tourist can save as much as 90 percent on the cost of health care abroad, compared to U.S. prices and 60% saving are an average.

It’s not just individuals that are finding medical tourism solutions but American corporations are finding a way out of the Affordable Health Care Act debacle. In many cases corporations are finding it less expensive to foot the entire bill for medical travel procedures than to have it go through their insurance plan. The solutions in medical tourism for corporations are not without faults, such as post-procedure follow-up and care and liability concerns, but companies are finding ways to make it work.

Employers are asking their health plans about covering major operations at foreign facilties especially for more expensive procedures. Patients Beyond Borders, an industry leader in providing medical tourism guidance, indicate that at the $6,000 threshold it is worth investigating a medical travel option stating that if the total estimated cost of the procedure in the United States is more than $6,000, it is probable to save money with medical travel abroad.

Choosing a Medical Travel Destination

Countries all over the globe have opened their doors for the health care tourism sector. Individuals and corporations should carefully choose the destination not solely based on cost saving.

In the Western hemisphere Costa Rica is one of the most established destinations. Costa Rica’s main selling points are that it doesn’t require a trans-Pacific flight for US tourists to get there. Average flight time between most American cities and Costa Rica are 2.5 hours to 5.5 hours.

India is the most established destination for medical tourism in the Eastern hemisphere. As well, India is the cheapest of any of the major or minor medical tourism destinations, and is the equal of the other major centers in terms of quality of staff and equipment. Prices average at a fifth of the United State.

Compared Savings:

Costa Rica’s average saving compared to the U.S.A. is 40-65%. India’s average savings compared to the U.S.A. is 65-90%
After care
The American Medical Association has approved guidelines for medical tourism, one of them being that foreign facilities be accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) or a similar body.

In regards to after care, the JCI requires accredited hospitals to give each patient a discharge summary, and American Medical Association suggests that the patient’s fee include follow-up care. The Medical Tourism Association says that it is a challenge for medical travel planners to organize a patient’s transition from a procedure in one country and the appropriate follow-up care back home. However, after care and liability concerns are outweighed by the benefits for most of these planners.

Individuals and corporations have to balance all cost and factors. Consider a $1,500 to $2,000 flight to India and 16 hours flight time vs. $600 flight and 5 hours to a JCI accredited facility in Costa Rica.

There are numerous factors taken into account by the analysts in charge of planning medical travel solutions, such as:

• Procedure costs
• Training & experience of staff
• Medical technology
• Travel time and cost
• Political transparency & social stability
• Tourism infrastructure
• History of healthcare
• International accreditation
• Cultural considerations

Medical Tourism is Thriving Despite or Because of Obamacare?

Despite lower out-of-pocket costs for co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles for many expectant retirees, the costs of health care in many cases are still much to afford.

Americans are traveling abroad for medical in every increasing numbers and more and more corporations are on board or investigating medical travel solution as confident experts say that the health industry abroad will actually benefit from the implementation of Obamacare for a two very good reasons:

1. Doctors Availability

With 30 million+ Americans forced to enter the already overloaded U.S. medical care system long waits will get longer especially for those who are in need of immediate medical care.

2. Private Companies Looking to Save Money

Avoiding long wait waits and lists for organ donors and surgical procedures is one of the rationalizations for a thriving medical tourism market; the other advantage is lower costs for companies that sponsor health insurance for their employees.

Many companies are encouraging employees to opt for medical tourism solution rather than the costly, time consuming services in the U.S. Companies have reported saving of $10 million in the last five years, which is significant. Further, many companies are offering employee bonus checks based on the savings on medical travel.

Risks of Medical Tourism

As international hospitals earn Joint Commission International accreditation requiring facilities to meet the same standards as the U.S. Joint Commission, countries across the globe are looking to gain a competitive edge in the health care sector.

Risks that a medical tourist should be aware of are important, such as legal liability in the case of malpractice or post-operative concerns such as post-op infections and follow-up/after care responsibilities. Controversial procedures, such as stem-cell treatment are also more available in facilities abroad, and may present unknown complications for patients.

Medical tourism, especially now in light of the Affordable Care Act fiasco, is a very viable option for North American, residences, retiring baby boomers and employees who are looking for top quality medical care at affordable prices.

Related posts