Getting sick or injured while on vacation is most people’s idea of a worst nightmare. But, what about going on vacation because you are sick or injured?
That’s right, as a response to the high cost of health care in America, “medical tourism” is a growing trend these days. Nearly 650,000 people per year travel outside of the United States to undergo medical procedures.
We’re not talking about flying over to Columbia to get plastic surgery on the cheap (although, that’s still done quite frequently); we’re talking about Americans without
health insurance who are saving on necessary treatments by going abroad.
Is it worth it?
According to The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a health service research organization, patients can save up to 80 percent over the cost of having the same procedure in the United States.
- Without health insurance, heart bypass surgery in the U.S. can cost $145,000. In Thailand, the same surgery costs $25,000.
- Hip replacement in the U.S. without health insurance is around $100,000. In Thailand it will just set you back $22,000.
Health Insurance and Medical Tourism
A very limited number of health insurance providers will cover a medical procedure performed overseas. Medical tourism planning organizations argue that health insurance companies will gain a competitive edge on competition by offering coverage outside of the United States. This is rooted in their belief that employees are attracted to the idea of having the freedom to decide where they receive treatment. In recent years, a few major health insurance carriers have begun offering medical tourism insurance in test markets.
How is the quality of care?
Contrary to popular belief, the United States does not have the world’s best health care system; just the most expensive. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. health care system at number 37, just a step above Slovenia and Cuba. Traveling for a major medical procedure does not necessarily mean inadequate or sub-par care.