Medical tourism: Maine people and companies go abroad to save on surgery

by Alison McKellar , | 2008-05-13

Medical tourism, a growing travel phenomenon that combines international travel with various medical procedures, is the newest indication that Americans are fed up with expensive medical procedures, inefficient hospitals, and sky-high deductibles from insurance companies. Until recently, Americans have had little recourse and few alternatives when facing high-cost surgeries and penny-pinching insurance companies, but a growing percentage of people have found a new and often favorable solution. U.S. News and World Report estimates that anywhere from 5,000 to 500,000 Americans annually are taking their business elsewhere and heading abroad when they have to pay for costly medical procedures.

Mainers and Maine companies like Hannaford Bros. are among the many patients and companies going beyond borders in pursuit of medical procedures at a fraction of the cost.  The AP reports that the Scarborough-based supermarket chain now offers employees the option of getting hip and knee replacements in Singapore, at the National University Hospital. The same procedure that can cost $40,000 to $60,000 in the United States ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 in Singapore.

The savings can be so great and the quality of care so high that even insurance companies have started looking into the possibility of covering oversees medical procedures. David Boucher, an assistant vice president of healthcare services at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina has visited many facilities abroad, and told U.S. News and World Report that he was, “totally amazed not just by the quality of medical care but at the quality of service… the initial driver may be price, but patients’ positive experiences will do a lot to advance the movement.”

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