With the costs of US health care rising along with growing awareness of its oftentimes comparatively poor quality, more and more Americans are going abroad for health treatment – half a million in 2005 – mostly to Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The loss of American manufacturing jobs was the first casualty of the global economy. Many thought service jobs would be safe: you can’t have your latte poured or your office cleaned by someone in another country. But as American telecommunications and technology jobs have drifted to India and elsewhere, health care jobs seem to be following suit.
It was previously unimaginable that our doctors, the person reading our xrays, or even our nursing homes could move beyond our borders. Now, thanks to technology and cost-conscious patients, it is starting to happen. While there have long been flights to a foreign country for cheaper plastic surgery or prescriptions, medical tourism now involves major medical surgery: joint replacements, heart and back surgery, even organ transplants. Oddly enough, insurers are supporting the trend: why shell out tens of thousands for gastric bypass here when it’s a fraction of the cost in, say, Mexico? Some are even creating global subsidiaries to facilitate the process.
In addition to cheaper costs, US patients are praising the quality of care in other health systems. A growing community of American seniors are enjoying attentive nursing home care in balmy Mexico. And sometimes cheaper prices allow a whole new vision for long-term care. One man who moved himself and his elderly parents to an ocean-side town in India reports they now enjoy a staff of six (including nurses, a chef and a masseuse) in addition to cheaper meds. Their quality of life as individuals and as a family has improved and they’re saving money.
While other Americans remain in the US but import immigrants as cheaper home health aides, the trend is clear: US health care, at its current costs, isn’t cutting it.
For more on this:
MEXICO’S HEALTH SYSTEM CAN BE A BOON TO FOREIGNERS, TOO
by Dudley Althaus
December 16, 2007