Self payers, insured, employers and even health insurance companies look south of the border to medical travel to Mexico, to save on health care costs.”I can’t afford surgery in the U.S.” is the title of a CNN article that caught my eye today. The story details how Godfrey Davies, diagnosed with polyps that needed to be removed to clear his nasal passages, experienced some understandable outrage at the bill he was presented in the US:  $33,127 out of pocket.

“I was speechless.” the story quotes Davies as saying.  Frustrated, he called on family members in the UK, who mobilized to find Davies a private hospital in Wales that would perform the surgery for $2,930.  According to the article (and common sense!) Davies didn’t think twice, immediately purchasing his  $768 round-trip ticket. He had his polps removed, and savied nearly  $30,000.

CNN quotes a Deloitte Center of Health Solutions report, citing that an estimated 878,000 Americans will travel internationally for a medical procedure this year a number is expected to nearly double by 2012.  We at Angeles Health can vouche for the truth behind the trends since the evidence is right before us on a daily basis – we’ve served nearly 7,000 medical tourists in the past 3 1/2 years.   We are inclined to disagree with the story’s claim that the  majority of medical tourists are uninsured. Many of the patients we see here at Hospital Angeles have carried insurance for years, but find themselves turned down when making a medical claim.   Recent patient Amanda W. sums up her experience:

“My experience with Angeles Hospitals in Tijuana was amazing! The surgeon, Dr. Corvala, was very warm and caring and he did a fantastic job. I wish I could come back for my lap band fills, but sadly I live too far away! The hospital room was very nice and clean. All of the staff was wonderful – professional, kind and respectful. The price was very reasonable. My coordinator was wonderful. She was very knowledgeable and set up the entire trip quickly. I am so glad I had the surgery. I know several people who had the same surgery in the US and had to jump through all sorts of crazy hoops with their insurance companies. In addition, most American surgeons send their patients home the SAME DAY as surgery! I was in the hospital for two nights after the surgery with ’round-the-clock nursing care. I am so glad I chose to self-pay and have my surgery at Angeles Hospital!”

The CNN article caught my eye because  of it’s report that health care in this country has become so expensive that even some U.S. health insurance companies are coordinating with hospitals overseas – companies such as Companion Global Healthcare, a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield, a pilot program launched in 2007 allowing participating employers to add an international option to the health care plans they offer to employees.

“If you can save forty to fifty thousand on an employee’s surgery, it gets right to the company’s bottom line,” Boucher was quoted as saying.

The article goes on to point out that self-pay patients are “getting really aggressively overcharged,” as hospitals try to subsidize for money lost on things such as Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.  Davies, who is  has been a U.S. citizen since 2002, says he was disappointed about having to travel more than 4,200 miles for such a simple procedure.  For future reference, Hospital Angeles Tijuana is just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, where medical travelers are picked up by AHI medical shuttle and transported to the leafy Rio business district, home of our gated private hospital complex.  Hospital Angeles is for most Americans just a domestic flight away and a savings of 50-75%. We are a full service hospital offering top flight medical care including procedures not yet available in the US such as lumbar stabilization and stem cell therapy for congestive heart failure.

“$33,000 versus $3,600 … I can put up with a lot of inconvenience to save that kind of money.”