Skip to content
Technology & Innovation

More Americans are avoiding their healthcare system by having surgeries abroad

More than a million Americans per year elect to go abroad for expensive medical procedures, building a vacation that, in total, costs less than being treated at home.

Photo credit: Stock photo © Pogonici

According to the CDC, an estimated 750,000 Americans engage in what is called “medical tourism” by electing to travel abroad for healthcare procedures. CNN‘s Morgan Spurlock upped that estimate to over a million citizens while reporting on the topic last year. Medical tourism shows up often on Facebook feeds, as its fundamental elements are easy to convey in visual form:

Healthcare in the United States is outrageously expensive. The health insurance industrial complex as a convoluted bureaucracy makes the IRS look like a lemonade stand. Factor everything together and you can see why more people are deciding to have their medical procedures done in accredited hospitals abroad. Heck, if you’ve got to go through an angioplasty, you might as well see some sights and stay in a hotel beforehand.

While some people might think traveling for a procedure is more trouble than it’s worth, the benefits outweigh the inconveniences, according to Anum Yoon at finance blog Len Penzo. It’s cheaper, more efficient, and the quality is more comparable than you’d initially expect. Plus, your insurance will sometimes cover it anyway.

It’s a telling indictment of the American medical boondoggle that it costs only $13,000 to travel to Belgium for surgery and rehab (airfare/hotel included) while the same procedure can run you up to $130,000 here. And with all the hoopla the past five years over Obamacare, it’s easy to forget that it effectively does nothing to try and bring down the cost of healthcare. The Republican opposition, as is their modus operandi, never put forth a reasonable alternative. We’ve more or less argued our voices dry over the ACA for half a decade while the most glaring problem in American healthcare was allowed to fester and grow.

If you’re in need of a major surgery and don’t want to buy into this miserable broken system, take Yoon’s advice and look into medical tourism. I hear Thailand is really nice this time of year.

Read more at Len Penzo.

Below, Brian Mullaney (founder of Smile Train and WonderWork) explains how easy it would be to improve quality of life worldwide with a rethinking of healthcare resource allocation.

Image credit: (middle) CNN; (bottom) Slavoljub Pantelic / Shutterstock


Up Next