American Medical Tourism Travelers Head to Europe to Save Big on Healthcare

It’s shocking but true. One out of six Americans has no health insurance. That’s a staggering 46 million people in this country who are completely uninsured, an unfathomable statistic for our nation. Two million others have only high-deductible health insurance. Unfortunately I am one of them.

When I was quoted $7,000 in my hometown for the out-of-pocket cataract surgery I needed, I contacted my doctor friend in Europe for advice. A week later I was back home after a successful operation performed by a well-known eye surgeon in Germany. Total cost for my cataract procedure in Europe? Only $1,000.

Under-insured or non-insured Americans do have a choice, and more of us are seeking expert medical treatment overseas. Though there has been much media coverage about medical tourism in the “exotic” countries such as India, sticking closer to home makes sense. I made the hop across the ocean for quality, affordable medical treatment in Europe. Unlike India and other Asian destinations further afield, I needed no long, expensive flights, no malaria shots, no visas, and no time to adjust to the culture.

The advantages for having certain medical procedures performed in Europe instead of Asia (esp. spinal, eye, bariatric, knee, dental surgery, etc.) far outweigh the slightly higher costs in Europe. Surgery in Europe still averages 40% to 80% less than comparable procedures in the U.S.A. In addition, flights from the U.S. to Europe cost substantially less than flights to India or Thailand.

Consider these sobering statistics gathered by European Medical Tourist (www.europeanmedicaltourist.com) on America’s critical medical insurance and health care issues:

* An estimated 46 million Americans (one in six people) have absolutely no health insurance.

* Two million+ Americans carry only high-deductible medical insurance.

* According to a recent Harvard University study, overwhelming medical costs contribute to almost 750,000 bankruptcies annually in the U.S., as even insured individuals face rising out-of-pocket medical expenses.

* In the U.S.A., health-related spending rose 7.6% to $1.68 trillion in 2003, consuming close to 15.3% of the $11 trillion gross domestic product.

* It was the fifth consecutive year that the cost of medical care increased faster than the economy, reported the Baltimore-based Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

* U.S. employer-paid health insurance premiums have soared 59% since 2000, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, nonprofit groups which study medical care.

* In 2004, annual medical insurance premiums averaged $9,950 for families of four and $3,695 for individuals, the groups found.

* Though the U.S.A. spends more money per capita on healthcare than any other country and has the latest medical technology, American healthcare lags behind that of most European countries in several categories.

* According to the 2003 Health of Nations Global League Table, all of the top ten high-ranking countries in medical care are European nations. The United States ranks 17th on the list, after Israel.

* Medical procedures in Europe can cost from 40% to 80% less than comparable surgery in the United States.

* An estimated 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures recommended by U.S physicians are performed yearly, writes Gary Null, Ph.D. A 1995 report by Milliman and Robertson, Inc. further concludes that nearly 60% of all surgeries done in America are medically unnecessary.

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Confirmed – Patients Are Spending Less on Healthcare & What Doctors Can Do About It!

This is something I’ve been talking about for awhile, and in detail on my blog, and the latest report by Health Affairs confirms that healthcare spending in 2008 rose at the slowest pace in 28 years (see the full article at Becker’s ASC Review).

So, as a physician, what to do?

Well, many will cut back on their practice “expenses” like marketing to compensate for the decrease in revenue. Which, of course, directly correlates to a decrease in income. Those of you that do what I teach, will see the massive opportunity here, and jump at the chance to drive the stake through the heart of your competition!

I obviously mean no harm here to any practice, and wish all of them success. The reality is, that your practice is just like any other business, so if your competition takes a misstep that you’re aware of, it’s your job as a business owner to take advantage of that to grow your practice now, secure your future (along with your employees) and maximize everything that you can while you can.

If patients are spending less on healthcare, it’s your job to work harder to get a message to, and build an ongoing relationship with the patients that will continue to spend money on healthcare. There are multiple ways to implement an effective and profitable marketing strategy, but the key is to have the right partner. Not only will you have the opportunity to grow your practice during the down economy, but you’ll set yourself up to be miles ahead of your competition when (and if) the economy makes doing business “easy” again.

Adam Arnette has been recognized as the “Master of Patient & Profit Maximization” for private medical practices across the country.

His High Performance Medical Marketing strategies have helped doctors rapidly attract new patients, automatically generate massive referrals, and maximize profits from their existing patient base.

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