Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Medical Tourism and the ObamaTax

Now that the ObamaTax has been affirmed, it's time to look ahead. This means a shortage of providers and major increases in both premiums and health care costs. There's not much one can do about the increased premium side of the equation, but there are indeed ways to mitigate both the provider shortage and increased cost of care.

While medical tourism has been around a while (we first posted on the phenomenon over 6 years ago), it seems poised to really take flight under the ObamaTax regime:

"US patients obtain health care treatment in foreign countries well below US rates. Treatments include dental implants, hip and knee replacements or bariatric surgeries. Americans also go abroad for more complicated procedures such as heart operations and cancer treatment, or alternative therapies such as stem cell treatment unavailable at home."

And that's already occurring. As folks begin to see hospital waits getting longer and longer, and the costs of care getting higher and higher, it doesn't seem far-fetched that those who can will opt for a short (or long) plane ride, the expenses of which are potentially more than offset by the savings (and, of course, the actual delivery of care).

Pipe dream much, Henry?

Perhaps, but then again:

"Some US businesses already persuade employees to travel for treatment. Medical tourism experts see that becoming more common in the future. With incentives like deductible waivers, the plan saves money for the insurance company, the business and the employee."

And there's nothing preventing carriers from offering optional med-tourism riders or supplements. And competition among foreign providers for American patients may also prove enticing.

Time will tell.

ADDENDUM: Can't believe I missed something so obvious, but of course the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) Death Panels will also be a major driver of MedTourism. After all, if you or your loved one (or ones) face a literal death sentence, then a quick jaunt to (say) Costa Rica may seem pretty reasonable.

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