In 2017, close to 1.5 million Americans packed their passport and engaged in medical tourism, according to an article in the American Journal of Medicine. That number is expected to increase by 25 percent every year, and with U.S. medical costs continuing to climb, it’s a trend that’s likely here to stay.

Medibid is Changing the Nature of Medical Tourism

Medical tourism reduces treatment costs, especially to uninsured or underinsured patients. Employer groups also benefit from medical tourism for its cost containment potential. Many Americans, though, still express reservations about traveling for medical treatment, but probably wouldn’t if they could stay in the U.S. for their procedure.

That’s the Medibid difference. Medibid is the only medical marketplace where patients can opt for domestic medical tourism, so patients can dramatically reduce their treatment expenses while visiting a world-class U.S. facility. 

Medical Tourism’s Advantages

The cost advantage is the primary reason for seeking medical tourism, and it can reduce the expenses incurred by self-funded employer groups and patients. Medical tourism offers considerable cost savings, even when factoring in travel. For example, the average cost of a heart valve replacement in the U.S. is around $165,000, according to an American Heart Association report. In India, that same procedure is less than $10,000, on average.

Cost reduction, though, is only one point in medical tourism’s favor. Other benefits include:

  1. Availability – It may be difficult for a patient to find the procedure they need at a nearby facility. Medical tourism provides a world of facilities and practitioners to the patient, so if they cannot find a nearby option, it’s not an insurmountable problem. Patients don’t need to fly internationally, either, as the procedure is often available at another U.S. facility.
  2. Quality – The chief concern that Americans have with medical tourism is the quality of care. However, many medical tourists find they can attain comparable or a better standard of care in another part of the U.S. or another country. This is particularly true of facilities that have been properly accredited.
  3. Leisure – A large number of medical tourists see their trip as a vacation opportunity, as well. Although not a significant perk, patients may be willing to select a facility if it comes packaged with an interesting trip.

Medical tourism makes a compelling case, so why aren’t more patients considering it? 

Medical Tourism’s Limitations

As cost effective as medical tourism is, it’s not an easy sell to everyone. The medical tourism conversation has largely focused on international providers, but many Americans are uncomfortable with traveling to another country for treatment. Why?

  1. Communication issues – If traveling to a country like India or China, communication problems can interfere with every step of the process. This can leave the patient confused about where the facility is, what their schedule looks like and whether or not the facility is providing quality care.
  2. Comfort – Travel physically demanding, and patients may not be in good enough health to travel comfortably. Patients may also wonder about how comfortable they will be at an international facility, and this can prompt patients to remain stateside.
  3. Quality – To be clear, there are hundreds of international facilities that are just as clean and technologically advanced as modern U.S. facilities. In some cases, international facilities outperform their U.S. counterparts. However, patients are concerned with the quality of care received internationally, and data on treatment quality is tough to come by. It’s difficult for a patient to make a medical tourism choice on quality, then.

Medibid’s Solution

How has Medibid solved these challenges? For one, every practitioner and facility on Medibid is vetted for quality, using JCI and U.S. medical board information to do so. Physician and facility profiles include detailed information about training, certifications, experience and outcomes. Facilities may also include photos and profiles of attending physicians. Further, patients may leave reviews of facilities and practitioners, providing an additional layer of quality control.

The future of medical tourism, though, is one where U.S. patients do more of their traveling inside the country. This is Medibid’s answer to the questions of quality and comfort that come with international facilities.

Why Domestic Medical Tourism is the Answer

Consider this compelling data point:

In the U.S., total knee replacement costs about $50,000, but the average Medibid price of total knee replacement in the U.S. is under $20,000.

That’s a greater than 50 percent reduction in price, achieved only by placing the knee replacement bid on Medibid. It’s not just joint replacement, either, because in 2012, a patient from Canada requested bids for triple bypass surgery, and received one from a U.S. provider for $14,400.

This is the power of market competition, and because Medibid drives competition between domestic and international providers, patients consistently get a much lower price, even when staying in the U.S. for treatment.

This approach is also perfect for employers, and Medibid can integrated medical tourism benefits into an employer’s health plan. How is this possible?

Because Medibid is far more scalable than alternative medical tourism solutions. In the past, employers would have to expend a lot of effort in helping their employees take advantage of medical tourism benefits. The effort isn’t worth it to most employers, but Medibid has streamlined the process to the point where employees can take control of their own health. All an employee needs to do is place a request, review pricing and treatment options from bidding providers and select the one that best fits their plan and financial situation. The plan member is empowered to behave like a consumer, which leads to cost effective decisions. The employer saves money and time, the patient saves money and they remain in the U.S., where they can enjoy the most advanced medical care in the world.

Medibid’s domestic medical tourism solution is scalable and can be used to serve employers of any size. It’s a true plan asset, as well, and employees that take advantage of it will immediately realize its value. This is why Medibid is committed to working with employers to develop plans with medical tourism benefits and to educate plan members on how to best leverage their new benefits.

Even for people with insurance, medical tourism can provide considerable cost savings. That’s because when opting for domestic or international medical tourism, the deductible is often waived. According to industry estimates, about 42 percent of Americans put off treatment, but with medical tourism and Medibid, they don’t have to.

Medical tourism still has the potential to revolutionize how medical care is delivered. That potential hasn’t always been realized, but Medibid is working to change that, with solutions that no other medical marketplace can match.