NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

TRAVELING FOR TREATMENT

April 9, 2009

An estimated 6 million Americans are traveling each year to such countries as India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand in search of less-expensive treatments for simple and complex procedures. Even France and Belgium tend to be cheaper than the United States, says Forbes magazine.

"People are going abroad for necessary medical treatments such as knee and hip replacements and cardiac procedures," says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.  "And in many countries, especially places like India, the quality is very high and the price can be up to 80 percent less expensive."

And that often includes the airline ticket:

  • Major U.S. health care players are jumping on the train, including BlueShield of California.
  • Its "Access Baja" health plan caters to Americans and Mexicans wanting to get medical care in northern Mexico.
  • BridgeHealth International, based in Denver, also has an overseas network.

What's driving the trend?  According to the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • Costs for treatment abroad can be as little as one-half to one-fifth the going rate in the United States.
  • As an example, it cited New Delhi's Apollo Hospital, which charges $4,000 for heart surgery, compared with an average of $30,000 in the United States.
  • A "nose job" might cost $850 in India and $4,500 in the United States.
  • An MRI in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Singapore or Thailand ranges from $200 to $300, but it can be three or four times that much stateside.

Source: Editorial, "Traveling for Treatment; Americans Are Looking Overseas For Less-Expensive Medical Care," Forbes, April 7, 2009.

 

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