Posts Tagged ‘cross-border care’

Cross-border care: When health insurers send Americans to other countries

July 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
July 8, 2014

Adam Teicholz and Glenn Cohen took an interesting look in The New Republic the other day at cross-border care, a relatively new phenomenon in which U.S. health insurance companies send patients out of the country — mainly to Mexico — for certain tests and other medical procedures.

Cross-border care is distinct from medical tourism. In the latter, which is better known, people travel to other nations for medicine or procedures that are easier to obtain away from home.

“Easier to obtain” often refers to a difference in costs, which the website says can be up to 90 percent cheaper than in the United States. For example, the site lists the cost for a heart bypass as being $144,000 domestically. Overseas, the same procedure can cost as little as $5,200 in India. (That accounts for airfare for two, but not food, lodging or other expenses.) In all of 10 other countries that the site lists, a heart bypass is estimated to cost less than $30,000. Even accounting for travel costs, a patient can come out ahead.

For this very reason — that charges for health care can be significantly lower outside of the U.S. — a handful of American insurers are requiring their clients to leave the country for some care. And therein lies the key difference: Medical tourism is generally undertaken on an individual’s initiative, while cross-border care is spurred by institutional imperatives.

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