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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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
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
jjkrjw

Is it possible that surgery in California is so absurdly expensive for those who have insurance because the hospitals there need to give free care to all the illegals?

July 18 2013 at 2:40 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jjkrjw's comment
jimbobob007

I think that it's more likely because patients haven't been able to find other options. Once you enter a hospital in pain you feel like you're pretty much stuck there. It would be good if you looked into the facts rather than making unfounded accusations.

July 18 2013 at 5:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dave

See my article on Dental Implant Billing Rip-Offs in Illinois. http://goo.gl/FUx1u

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