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 email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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