Medical Tourism in the U.S.? This New Tool Makes It Possible

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Medical tourism is nothing new: For years, ailing Americans have been traveling around the world to get lower rates on hundreds of medical procedures, from hip replacements to root canals. But patients hoping to save money on health care may not need to travel across the globe. As a new tool from consumer comparison site NerdWallet.com demonstrates, lower rates for health care could be as close as the next state.

Take knee and hip replacements, for example, two of the more than 100 procedures the tool compares. On the low end, Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, OK, charges $5,304 for a knee replacement. The next most expensive hospital, Medina Memorial in Medina, NY, charges $14,788. On the opposite end, Monterey Park Hospital in Monterey Park, CA, charges $223,373 -- 42 times as much as Chickasaw and 15 times as much as Medina Memorial. Even factoring in the cost of traveling cross-country, the difference is stunning.

The economics of knee and hip replacements is especially shocking, but there are major differences in price for most big procedures. When it comes to angioplasty, for example, prices range from $13,314 to $203,522. Pacemaker placements run from $15,128 to $167,628, and removal of a gall bladder ranges from $6,750 to $140,449.

Admittedly, not all hospitals are the same. Some may have more experience with certain operations, which can improve patient outcomes. (The tool, which compares more than 3,000 hospitals, also indicates patient volumes for various procedures.) Others may have a higher average Medicare reimbursement, which could help keep costs low. All things being equal, however, it's clear that it doesn't take an overseas plane ticket to find medical bargains. With that in mind, before you plan your trip to Mumbai for a new hip, you may want to take a peek -- and see if there's a better bet just around the corner!

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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17 Comments

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mac2jr

Why is health care failing.. Lesson # 1...

In the PP&ACA is a requirement that all dentist, doctors, hospitals, and clinics have all patient records digitized and on computer so that a patient's health care and history can be easily obtained, thus reducing the millions of life threatening mistakes currently being made by the medical community. The cost of this is offset by a $14,800 'gift' to each doctor in each medical establishment.

There are those who are 'refusing' to digitize their records are doing so for a reason, they are fearful of either being found out to be a fraud, or poor doctor, or that a patient will take the records and go to another doctor which has better 'bedside' manners or cost less. Losing customers is a valid concern, but to put the customer's life and health in harm's way is NOT good Medicine, and these dentist and doctors need to understand that if a client goes to another facility, it is because he or she, the dentist or doctor, is NOT doing their JOBS...

Example: http://www.philicontractorsmall.com/Medical/Dental/dental_problems.htm

July 19 2013 at 12:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

I think that mandating that all medical providers post their prices for services would result in a large reduction in health care costs for everyone because the competition would drive down prices.

DO you know what they call the person that had the lowest grade point average in medical school ? Doctor .

Even people with very good insurance often have 10% co-payments . Why shouldn't people be allowed to price shop for health care procedures when the difference in the co-pay could be $700 -15,000 or more . Debts from medical care is the # 1 cause of bankruptcy even for people with insurance .

July 18 2013 at 11:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
linmarco

Interesting. With the advent of foreign hospitals and clinics doing medical procedures for less all of a sudden American hospitals and clinics start doing the same. Go abroad and have it done. At least after it's over and you're still alive see parts of another country.

July 18 2013 at 6:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Health Care Statistics in the United States
Health Insurance
The United States is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system. Source: Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences
In 2010, the percentage of Americans without health insurance was 16.3%, or 49.9 million uninsured people. Source: US Census Bureau
Of the 83.7% of people with health insurance in 2010, coverage was 55.3% employment-based, 9.8% direct-purchase, and 31.0% government funded (Medicare, Medicaid, Military). (Overlap reflects coverage by more than one type of health insurance). Source: US Census Bureau
The primary reason given for lack of health insurance coverage in 2005 was cost (more than 50%), lost job or a change in employment (24%), Medicaid benefits stopped (10%), ineligibility for family insurance coverage due to age or leaving school (8%). Source: National Center for Health Statistics
Health Care
More than 40 million adults stated that they needed but did not receive one or more of these health services (medical care, prescription medicines, mental health care, dental care, or eyeglasses) in 2005 because they could not afford it. Source: National Center for Health Statistics
Medicaid, which accounted for 15.9% of health care coverage in 2010, is a health insurance program jointly funded by the federal and state governments to provide health care for qualifying low-income individuals. Source: US Census Bureau
Medicare, a federally funded health insurance program that covers the health care of most individuals 65 years of age and over and disabled persons, accounted for 14.5% of health care coverage in 2010. Source: US Census Bureau
Medicare operates with 3% overhead, non-profit insurance 16% overhead, and private (for-profit) insurance 26% overhead. Source: Journal of American Medicine 2007
Since the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was created in 1997, the percentage of children ages 0-17 with health insurance has increased from 86% to 93%. Source: National Center for Health Statistics: December 2011
2.5 million young adults have gained health insurance as a result of the provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows them to remain on their parents insurance plans until age 26. Source: National Center for Health Statistics: December 2011
Health Care Expenditures
Health care expenditures in the United States were nearly $2.6 trillion in 2010, an average of $8,402 per person. Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
In 2009, national health care expenditures were paid by households 28%, private businesses 21%, state and local governments 16%, and federal government 27%. Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
75% of all health care dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, many of which can be prevented, including diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Source: Health Affairs

July 18 2013 at 6:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mclaramc3

I agree hospital cost are over the top. Please consider qualtiy as well. Do your homework, look at doctor and hospital rates and quality information. The information is online. It could save your life.

July 18 2013 at 6:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jimbobob007

I would like to see this info made public. Most patients go to one hospital and don't consider other options thus ending up with huge debts.

Personally I feel fortunate that I am still "original equipment" at .

July 18 2013 at 5:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jeff W.

I'll keep my gall bladder please

July 18 2013 at 3:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

ACA/PP
http://www.philicontractorsmall.com/PP_and_ACA/PP_ACA_pg_00.htm

July 18 2013 at 2:48 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Needed Dental Reform

http://www.philicontractorsmall.com/Medical/Dental/dental_problems.htm

July 18 2013 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mac2jr

Medical Safety...

http://www.philicontractorsmall.com/Medical/Medical_problems_menu.htm

July 18 2013 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply