Medical tourism to relieve the strain on health care reform?

Can medical tourism help Massachusetts achieve its goal of near-universal health insurance coverage? Perhaps.

The front page of today’s Boston Globe: Older residents feel insurance law pinch; Age-based pricing too high for some examines the strain placed on low to moderate income people in the 55 to 65 age group. Their health care is more expensive. Many of these folks qualify for state-subsidized plans where the rates are the same regardless of age. But for those who don’t, they face paying 2x what younger adults pay.

[Evelyn] Hartrey [who, ironically works for a dermatologist group that doesn’t offer health insurance and] is paying off $800 in bills for treatment of a sinus infection, has been trying to figure out if there’s any way she can find the money for insurance. Her only monthly bill that’s higher is the $450 she pays to rent the land under her mobile home.

She could give up her car, she said, but then she’d have no way to get to work.

“There’s no retirement in my future,” said Hartrey, adding that she spent her meager savings recently for a new furnace and hot water tank. “I haven’t been on a vacation for years. Plenty of nights I have popcorn for dinner.”

It’s going to get worse as health care expenses and premiums continue to rise. The state can’t easily subsidize everyone. It seems to me that medical tourism is one possible way to address the problem.

What if the state allowed people to buy health plans that provided a lower premium in exchange for traveling abroad for care? We’d have to see how much could really be saved that way, but I think it’s at least worth examining.
For more information on medical tourism, please visit MedTripInfo.

August 17, 2007

2 thoughts on “Medical tourism to relieve the strain on health care reform?”

  1. Interesting idea– it would be a way to save money on high-cost surgeries. For some reason, I think the medical infrastructure will argue that such an approach is “unsafe” and create a regulatory bar to any such thinking.

    After all, you are proposing that consumers can choose from an a la carte menu of insurance options– which would lead to the elimination of components of mandated coverage.

    In essence, this would undermine the paternalistic approach at the heart of mandated coverage– which ends up expanding the market for insurance companies and mandated special interests. People can (and do) take care of their health in many ways outside of the medico-insurance infrastructure, but many of these approaches are penalized by regulated “solutions” protecting the most powerful (and best lobbying) incumbents.

  2. So in addition to have petroleum coated organic foods we can have petroleum coated health care?

    Aren’t we supposed to be working on being LESS dependent on Mideast oil?

    I say it fails the green test. Got to think about the health of the planet as well.

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