NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medical Tourism

June 19, 2012

Increasingly, cash-paying patients are traveling outside the United States for surgery offering package prices that are one-fifth to one-third the cost in the United States.  Moreover, a new company, Colorado-based BridgeHealth Medical, offers U.S. employer plans a specialty network with flat fees for surgeries paid in advance that are 15 percent to 50 percent less than a typical network, says NCPA President and CEO John C. Goodman in his new book, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis.

  • Since the international medical tourism market is a real market where pro­viders routinely compete for patients based on price and quality, government-run programs such as Medicare should take advantage of it.
  • Further, if a patient saves money for Medicare by traveling, the patient should share in the savings.
  • As in the case of doctors, patients should be encouraged to make money by saving Medicare money.

You don't actually have to go off shore to participate in the market for medical tourism.  There is an emerging market for it on shore.

  • Canadians routinely come to the United States for surgical procedures and they usually face a package price for all services agreed to in advance.
  • North American Surgery, Inc., has negotiated deep discounts with 22 surgery centers, hospitals and clinics across the United States as an alternative to foreign travel for low-cost surgeries.
  • Seniors too could be in this market and they would be if Medicare allowed the senior to share in the savings created by traveling to a higher-quality, lower-cost facility.

Source: John C. Goodman, Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis, Independent Institute, June 2012.

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