As prices at many U.S. hospitals continue to increase, many patients are turning to medical tourism, or traveling abroad for the purpose of receiving medical care that is more affordable, faster, and of the same or better quality.
One story in this article from Kaiser Health News tells about a knee replacement patient from Mississippi and an orthopedic surgeon from Milwaukee meeting in a Mexican hospital to have the surgery. The arrangement was organized by the patient’s insurance company, which saw the benefit of cost-savings by using a facility outside the U.S.
Overall, the cost to the patient ended up being less than half of what the knee replacement would have cost in the U.S. Plus, her insurance covered all travel expenses and even provided a $5,000 stipend. For the surgeon, he was paid three times what he would’ve received from Medicare if he had performed procedure in the States.
What is unique about this case of medical tourism is that the surgeon was American and the procedure was done at Galenia Hospital, a hospital in Cancun participating with the North American Specialty Hospital (NASH). NASH is a for-profit company organizing medical care for American patients outside the U.S.
NASH hopes that having American surgeons on board will help to assuage any concerns patients may have about travelling outside the country for their care. It might even convince self-insured American employers to start offering this as an option.
“In the past, medical tourism has been mostly a blind leap to a country far away, to unknown hospitals and unknown doctors with unknown supplies, to a place without U.S. medical malpractice insurance. We are making the experience completely different and removing as much uncertainty as we can.” – James Polsfut, Chief Executive of NASH
Luma’s Hot Take: Medical tourism has been a common phenomenon over the last decade due to the extremely high cost of care within the continental United States. Yet, concerns still exist over the quality of physicians, facilities, and other resources when in foreign countries.
Organizations like NASH are helping to alleviate patient concerns by paying American doctors and insurers to still provide high-quality care at lower costs outside of the U.S. As companies like NASH find success, more organizations are sure to follow in their footsteps, ultimately forcing hospitals and insurers in this country to reconsider the total cost of care in this country.