Today, as the Democrats and Republicans continue to bicker about health care, more U.S. patients are tuning out and getting out, hopping planes to countries where the care is more affordable and, arguably, just as good and in some instances, better.
That's what 56-year-old Atlanta personal trainer Ralph Ballard did in 2009. Uninsured and needing a hip replacement, he found that his options stateside were severely limited. "At one hospital, I was told that my costs would start at $60,000! And that didn't cover the doctor, the prosthesis, the guy who sweeps the floor," Ballard said.
So Ballard did research on the Internet and eventually contacted a medical practice in Costa Rica. He learned that $17,200 would cover the cost of his surgery, including a titanium prosthetic ball set in his hip, all tests and X-rays, a brief hospital stay, two weeks at a pleasant ranch where he received excellent food and daily physical therapy, and transfers to and from the airport. He paid extra only for his airfare.
How is Ballard doing today? "It was the best thing I ever did. The hip is perfect now, my surgeon was great, and they treated me wonderfully. If I ever need another procedure, I'm going back there," Ballard says.
Others are joining Ballard looking outside the U.S. for treatment as the Affordable Care Act; i.e., Obamacare, and government-dominated state health care exchanges, such as the Washington State Legislature enacted earlier this year, take control of our health care in the United States. The skyrocketing costs and morass of rules, regulations and restrictions are driving Americans to look to other countries for treatment.
There is a flood of American patients heading abroad for surgeries and other medical and dental treatments. "There's been between a 20 percent and a 30 percent growth rate for this sort of travel in just the last five years," says Josef Woodman, author of the book series and website Patients Without Borders and CEO of Healthy Travel Media.
According to Woodman's data, the number of outbound American medical tourists has grown from approximately 150,000 in 2007 to between 600,000 and 900,000 today.
Is outsourcing our health care really what the average American wants---especially those who cannot afford insurance or treatment?