The Growth of Medical Tourism 1

Despite the United States having arguably some of the best healthcare in the world, it also has the singularly most expensive. We have all heard the story of the hundred-dollar Aspirin. Many of us have witnessed or been fleeced by the ridiculous markups some US hospitals attempt to profit from - sometimes in excess of 1,000% or 1,500%. The US spends twice as much on healthcare as most comparable nations, yet has highly unequal access to healthcare services, and quite frankly, terrible patient outcomes if you happen to be poor, or live in the wrong part of the country.

As the costs of US health services continue to spiral, consumers are facing ever-increasing healthcare charges. This includes massive annual deductibles which effectively negate the value of health insurance, and combine with increasingly high co-pays that cause many to forgo their prescription medications and doctor visits in order to pay rent or put a meal on the table for their family. In fact according to physicians, 30% of prescriptions are never filled and another 30% are not taken as prescribed - many of which are eked-out to save having to pay for a refill.

Just ask anyone who works in the profession how the advent of high-deductibles and other rising out of pocket costs is affecting their businesses. Designed to contain employer and employee healthcare costs, high deductibles have led to much higher out of pocket costs for consumers and quite seriously changed user consumption patterns. Many medical practices are empty at the beginning of the calendar year when a fresh deductible kicks in, for all but the most serious of emergencies. What's more, it stays that way for months till patients have met their deductible and are no longer dis-incentivized to visit their medical providers.

Most of us who have tried to purchase medications in the US that are not included in our medical insurance formulary list have experienced first-hand unregulated US pharmaceutical prices that gouge consumers for $200 or more for the exact same medication that sells outside of the US for $20. It’s no wonder that so many Americans stock up on their prescriptions when on vacation abroad, regardless of whether they have health insurance at home or not.

Yes - Your over-the-counter drug price in other countries is often cheaper than your insurance co-pay at home!

But what other aspects of their healthcare are Americans looking abroad for?

In this multi-part blog, I explore the rise of medical tourism and how it is often better and cheaper to get on a plane and fly across the world for treatment in a modern top-notch accredited hospital rather than subject yourself to the co-pays, high-deductibles, obscured billing practices, and unexpected / underhanded out-of-network surprise charges not covered by your US health plan.

Read Part 2 of this story

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