Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You try to schedule an appointment with your assigned Dr. You wait 2-3 weeks, go sit in the lobby for an hour or 2 if it’s an urgent care (think that’s bad? Hospital ER wait time can be up to 5-6 hours). You pay the $60 co-pay, and finally you’re placed into a room where you wait 30 minutes more.
To your surprise, a Physician’s Assistant greets you (Dr.’s off on vacation till next week) and says “well, before we begin, I’ll need to send you out for some blood work, here’s the slip.“
You sit there dumbfounded. You tell yourself “Are you kidding?! Why couldn’t I have just gone there first??”
The sad truth is this is how the healthcare system works for many Americans with insurance. They’re often forced to first go through a set of formalities by visiting their healthcare practitioner before being sent off to get lab work, X-rays, or any kind of surgery.
Countries like Canada where the cost of healthcare is virtually free comes at the expense of having to wait weeks or even months to be treated. In 2013, The Fraisier Institute cited Canadians waited on average about 18.3 weeks to see a specialist, compared to 9.3 weeks in 1993.
That’s a little over 4 and a half months, think about that for a moment.
Your primary care physician has just diagnosed you with an aggressive form of colon cancer and refers you to an oncologist. Are you going to sit around and wait 4 months to be seen, or would you begin looking outside the country to literally save your behind? I know what I’d do.
It’s no surprise that many are beginning to look elsewhere for treatment in order to save time and money. Countries in Southeast Asia have built a name for themselves as a hot spot for medical tourism, where many fly in from the U.S. to receive services ranging from cosmetic to lifesaving surgeries. Singapore receives over 15 million visits a year by tourists looking to save money on a variety of treatments and procedures.
Another example is the City of Algodones Mexico, where a booming dental industry has blossomed in response to the outrageous prices Americans pay for oral care.
A $1500 crown in the U.S. would run around $160-$500 according to Dental Departures, a site dedicated to directing would be medical tourists brave enough to venture South of the border.
So what is it that’s driving the boom of medical tourism in places like Asia and Latin America? Most often, it’s the time rather than the cost that propels people to take the risk and travel abroad.
By 2025, the shortage of primary care physicians in the U.S. will rise to 30,000, with another 60,000 being a mix of specialists and surgeons. Despite more people getting health insurance, lines and wait times will only continue to increase. This will eventually push people to seek other ways to get treatment for themselves and their families, whether here in the United States or abroad.
To make things worse, the CEO of Aetna, a major health insurance company, predicts that Obamacare is in the midst of "a death spiral" .
“My anticipation would be that in '18, we’ll see a lot of markets without any coverage at all,” Bertolini said.
The bottom line is people are going to be waiting a lot longer and paying more out of pocket for the services they need.
To combat this, I wanted to seek out ways in which people could take control of their healthcare and purchase what they need when they need it. My attempt to ease the strain and cost for consumers was to create a service online where you could purchase blood tests anytime you wanted and go straight to the laboratory to get your blood drawn.
My goal with this blog is to help educate people on what options they have available, if they’re ever in a position where they need to pay out of pocket. While my attempt to help comes in the form of laboratory blood testing, I’ll also explore a variety of other medical services ranging from dental, to pharmacy and a host of specialists. We’ll explore the various costs of paying out of pocket and see if we can save some money along the way.
I look forward to hearing from others about their similar experiences dealing with the healthcare system in the U.S. and whether they found alternative ways to find treatment.
Until next time,