Self-insured groups may encourage medical tourism

Joy Robertson looked into medical tourism and posted her findings on Ozarksfirst.com, the Web site of Springfield, Mo.-based stations KOLR and KSFX. She found that self-insured entities like the Assemblies of God Missions can save thousands if members go abroad for health care, and may even waive deductibles for members who choose to do so.

“It probably saves 80 percent of the cost you’d pay in the United States,” [World MedAssist’s Wouter] Houberechts says. “As an example, heart bypass in the U.S. would cost about $150,000 for an uninsured patient. Going to India, including airfare and lodging, you could get the procedure for $10,000. For a liver transplant in India, it’s $60,000, which is expensive, but in the U.S. you’d pay about $350,000.”

Why is it cheaper? Less cost for things like labor, construction, equipment and malpractice insurance. Many of the doctors are board certified and trained in the U.S. Even with travel costs, consumers say they come out ahead.

The story includes interviews that Robertson conducted at Health Journalism 2008 in Washington, D.C.

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