As medical and insurance costs skyrocket, medical tourism is booming.
Need a hip replaced? Americans pay, on average, about five times as much for this procedure as patients in Switzerland or France. Average cost for a new hip in the United States is $50,000, compared to about $12,000 in Switzerland. Being a savvy buyer nearly requires you to consider medical tourism at these price points.
Still too steep for you? Then head to Spain, where a hip replacement runs about US$8,700.
How about an angiogram? Average price in the United States is $1114. But jump over the border to Canada, and you’ll pay about US$55…no more than the cost of a fancy lunch at your local bistro.
Are you taking an expensive medicine? You can get the identical drug (that’s not the generic, but the identical pill) for about 0.5% of the United States rate in many countries. The average Stateside price for Lipitor, for example, is $174. In New Zealand, you can pick it up for US$12.
Meanwhile, insurance rates are set to head into the stratosphere in my home state of California. As Forbes noted in a recent article, “…for a 40 year old male non-smoker Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by an average of 116 percent.” As someone who fits the profile, this really speaks to me…and leads me to the topic of medical tourism.
In fact, I’m a red-blooded, 42-year-old American male in good working order. I run 25 miles a week and don’t smoke. I’ve never had any type of medical issue and must be near the lowest risk category in my age group.
I buy medical insurance through Blue Shield, California and have a $4,000 deductible. In March of 2010, I was paying US$98 per month for coverage. That jumped by 29% in 2011, and by 29% again in 2014. Remember, all this for insurance that I’ve never used.
This means that my insurance costs have increased by a staggering 171% in the last few years (from US$98 to US$266 per month).
According to Huffington Post, I can expect an increase of 29% to 116% almost every year. This same article notes that the costs of Obamacare will fall on those of us who are generally healthy. We pay for and never use insurance, and thus provide a safety net for the rest of the country.
My second home is Panama City, one of the best destinations for medical tourism. There, top-tier medical facilities are available, and doctors can be U.S.-trained. My medical insurance cost from the most reputable worldwide provider is US$135 per month – about half of what I send to Blue Shield each month.
That US$135 rate is for the best of the best available in Panama. Locals typically pay US$70 to US$90 per month for private insurance and have a US$10 to US$20 co-pay to visit their primary-care doctor. Private insurance is a must in Panama. You don’t want to be within 100 yards of the public (free) facilities. As the saying goes, you go in with one ailment and leave with three.
Want to have a baby in Panama? You can expect to spend US$2,500 to US$4,500 for private care without insurance. The higher rate includes a cesarean with minor complications. You can get this down to US$1,500 by going to a birthing center.
The average cost for a fully insured person in the United States to have a baby is $6,000– assuming a natural birth without complications. One reason for this is that you must pay two deductibles–one for the mother and one for the new baby.
How much does it cost to have a baby without insurance in the United States? One source suggested $9,000 to $250,000. While an uncomplicated natural birth is priced at about $9,000, a hospital stay afterward can easily increase bills by an additional $20,000 to $35,000. The average charged in 2012 (the most recent data available) for a natural birth in California was US$15,259. This is likely over US$25,000 today.
If you’re uninsured in the United States, you may be charged higher rates negotiated by the insurance carriers. One study I found said, “uninsured parents could be charged over $50,000 for a baby born by c-section and over $30,000 for a baby born by natural birth. Average provider charges for a c-section were $51,125, but commercial insurance plans only paid $27,866, 55% of what an uninsured patient could be asked to pay.”
While costs in the United States are going through the roof, the rest of the world is growing at a more reasonable pace. The annual increase in Panama City for my high-end insurance has been 10%. Such great differences in costs for the same service, at the same level of quality and professionalism, can only lead to growth in medical tourism.
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