Medical tourism doesn’t have to mean leaving the country

I’ve talked in the past about the huge savings available to self-pay patients who travel overseas for surgical or hospital care, such as the man who went to Thailand and paid $9,000 for shoulder surgery that would have cost $130,000 in the U.S. Known as medical tourism, it’s a great option for people who need medical treatment and just can’t afford the prices charged by most U.S. hospitals.

But traveling overseas isn’t necessarily something that everyone is going to be comfortable with, and depending on the health of the patient it may not be a smart choice. I mentioned last week when I wrote about Regency Health, an orthopedic surgical center in New York City offering cash prices, that good, affordable options for self-pay patients in the U.S. are hard to find when it comes to surgical and hospital care.

A few weeks ago I wrote about MediBid, an online service that allows people to have medical facilities around the country bid on providing them care. Just about any type of medical service can be put up for auction through MediBid’s site.

Another online option, this one focused on surgical services, is North American Surgery. They describe their mission as “to provide Americans with low cost surgical procedures at prices comparable to off-shore hospitals without the risks entailed in travelling to foreign countries for surgery.” 

North American Surgery’s process is different than MediBid’s. Instead of setting up an auction for each patient, they have already negotiated deeply discounted prices with several facilities around the country. Patients contact them and tell them what procedure they need, and North American Surgery then provides them with a list of hospitals that provide that service.

After the patient selects the facility, doctors there will review the patient’s information and then the patient will be contacted by North American Surgery and given an estimated price. Assuming the patient is satisfied with the price, they make payment and then schedule the procedure. The process is a little different for patients who don’t already have a diagnosis, but follows the same lines.

According to North American Surgery’s web site, they have negotiated rates with facilities in Arizona, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Roughly speaking, that provides pretty good geographic distribution across the country, with the exception of the Southeast.

The site provides a few testimonials and patient accounts as well as some news articles featuring their services. The testimonials don’t provide any pricing information, but I was able to glean a few tidbits of information about the savings North American Surgery can provide to self-pay patients elsewhere on the site. Here’s a few examples:

“If [Mr. Smith] needs a knee replacement, and is uninsured, the average price of this surgery, across the U.S., is $53,500. Our clients pay $18,800 – a 65% discount. For the most part, our clients are happy with a 65% discount.”

“What we can do is offer medical procedures at deeply discounted prices from the usual and customary prices which are charged at 99% of the hospitals in the U.S. We can offer a triple cardiac by-pass for $31,600, while this procedure costs $100,000 in most hospitals.  This is an 84% discount…”

“We were contacted two weeks ago by an un-insured client who required an extremely complicated hip re-construction procedure after a previous trauma.  We referred him to a 5 star rated orthopedic specialty hospital in the mid-west.  We negotiated a price which was less than half the price he was quoted at his local hospital.”

North American Surgery is a Canadian company, originally founded to provide treatment options to Canadians who didn’t want to wait for needed care offered through that nation’s single-payer health system. I appears to have found a lucrative niche in the U.S. however, focusing on the uninsured and connecting them with a network of hospitals and surgical facilities willing to provide treatment at significantly lower rates than self-pay patients. For Americans who are leery of traveling overseas for medical care, this is a great option for significant savings while getting treatment in a U.S. facility.

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