As More Lack Access to Affordable Health Insurance, Medical Tourism Grows

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The high cost of medical procedures in the United States coupled with increased numbers of those without access to affordable or low cost medical insurance has lead to measurable growth in the emerging industry of “Medical Tourism.” Despite the perception of American doctors and surgeons being the best in the world, there is an increasing trend of Americans coming back from overseas trips with more than funny hats and snow-globes, many are returning with artificial knees and hips.

Take for example the recent case of 57-year old Florida resident Eileen Clemenzi, recently featured on ABC’s 20/20. Eileen had been dealing with the excruciating pain of a bone- to- bone worn hip for over 3 years. Florida is a state where it is notoriously difficult o find low cost health insurance options and Eileen did not have medical insurance coverage. She spent about 11,000.00 for a two week “vacation” in Malaysia, which included the hip surgery. The cost of the surgery alone stateside would have been four times that amount.

A recent report published by The American Medical Association showed that Eileen is not alone. In fact the report estimated in 2005, the most recent year that complete data is available, over 500,000 people traveled abroad for surgery or other medical procedures not covered by health insurance. The report went on to conclude that Medical tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry that is expected to accelerate in the years ahead, as the ranks of uninsured Americans with a limited healthcare budget and financially strained U.S. employers continue to swell. The AMA is currently watching these trends in medical tourism to monitor the quality of care for patients, and to assess the impact if any the phenomena will have on the level of health insurance payments made by domestic health insurance companies.

Meanwhile Eileen is very satisfied with the care she received in Malaysia. She says she not only was impressed with the state of the art equipment she saw at the hospital there, the skill and quality of her care, but in the honesty of her physicians. Eileen said she had paid in advance for two hip replacements, having experienced pain in both her right and left hip. But the doctors had told her upon examination that the pain in her right hip was being caused by years of favoring the actually injured left hip. They said soon after the replacement of eth left hip, the pain in the right would subside, and they refunded the money for the second surgery.