Obamacare and International Health Insurance

Obama’s Affordable Care Act grants almost all US citizens health insurance by 2014 and international health care providers are wondering how this will affect medical tourism.  Today, many US citizens travel abroad for their health care needs because it is so much less expensive.  However, more affordable health care in the US has them unsure of their future.

Common international health care treatments include dental implants, hip and knee replacements, heart operations, cancer treatments or alternative therapies such as stem cell treatment unavailable in the US.

Although Obamacare supporters believe the bill brings Americans closer than ever to universal health care, nay sayers believe a doctor shortage and longer hospital waits in the United States could be in the future.

To give an idea of the size of the medical tourism field, in December 2010, consulting firm Frost & Sullivan put the industry’s global worth at $78.5 billion.  According to Promed, in 2010, Costa Rica attracted nearly 36,000 medical tourists — primarily US and Canadian citizens — who spent almost $295 million in the country.  In 2011, Patients Beyond Borders, a consultancy firm, put it at $15 billion, counting 5 million patients worldwide.  Estimates for how many of the patients were American range from 550,000 to 1.6 million.

Americans have confidence in international physicians and surgeons because many train at top US medical schools, return to their homeland — whether in Mexico, Central or South America, or Asia — and provide competitive treatment to anyone who can afford it.  The idea of receiving quality medical care in conjunction with a tropical vacation while recuperating, for often less than they would pay in the US, is currently very appealing to many North Americans.