Is American Healthcare a Poor Deal?

Rising costs are threatening access to healthcare for American citizens.

According to a National Conference of State Legislatures report:

In 2018, the average annual premium for employer-based family coverage rose 5 percent to $19,616; for single coverage, premiums rose 3 percent to $6,896.

Covered workers contributed 18 percent of the cost for single coverage and 29 percent of the cost for family coverage, on average, with considerable variation across firms.”

That’s big money being paid to protect against medical emergencies. I know people who’ve held off committing to their business full-time because they relied on employer-sponsored health plans.  

So this begs the question: Who’s responsible for making healthcare affordable?

Must a person increase their income, substantially in some cases, to obtain healthcare?

Should the government impose regulations?

Would more taxpayer dollars do the trick?

For a layman like myself, I have no idea how to fix the system. What I do know is my power as a customer. If a product or service doesn’t meet my needs then I choose to not buy it.

Rather, I rely on a sound tactic that has been leveraged over and over by industries to receive excellent healthcare at a fraction of the cost. I’ll talk more about that in a bit…

These days the healthcare industry is feeling the pressure to lower costs more than ever. In order to remain competitive, hospitals are prioritizing specialization and efficiency. The trend is to outsource the remaining functions to vendors who perform those services cheaper.

At first glance this appears to be an ordinary business move, so what’s the point? The problem is, the focus is on securing profit margins for investors but healthcare costs increase unchecked.

For example, a hospital in Altoona, PA slashes costs by not paying an American based doctor to review emergency brain scans during the midnight shift. Instead, a request is sent to a staff of doctors in Bangalore India who interpret the results in a timely manner. They aren’t the only hospital going this route.

I wonder if American patients would feel comfortable knowing someone located thousands of miles away is influencing their treatment. Are these cost savings passed on to the patient? I’ll let you arrive at your own conclusion…

I want my dear friends to know that we, as consumers, can use the same outsourcing tactics to pay a fraction of the costs for insurance and treatment.

Hospitals are outsourcing brain scan analysis to Indian nationals, so I’d assume those same doctors are qualified to provide treatment too. Many foreign doctors are being certified in the U.S. and U.K. I won’t hesitate to buy a $150 ticket to Mexico City to meet an English speaking doctor.  

One of my favorite things to do is slow travel which puts me on the road for months at a time. I use medical services in every country and pay cash for preventative care or purchase local insurance if I’ll stay put for a while.

Every time I’ve received quality treatment from professional providers.

I’ll admit it – the first few times, I had unreasonable fears like imagining my foot getting amputated when my original symptoms were a sore throat. Fortunately, nothing like that happened or I wouldn’t be publishing this article.

Here’s a short list of health-related experiences I’ve had during travel:

Affordable Insurance Plans

In 2018, I traveled in Colombia for 6 months and bought a private health insurance plan from one of the country’s top insurers. They offered two plans to foreigners:

Option 1: Provided 100% coverage and $0 deductible for treatment at $90 per month. The plan included health, dental, and eyes along with a $10 USD copay. Treatment received outside of Colombia had to qualify as an emergency.

Option 2: At a cost of $120, extended the same full coverage available in Colombia to 9 other Latin American countries as travel insurance lasting 90 days. The 90 day counter resets upon return to Colombian soil.

My favorite part of the plan was the vast amount of in-network health providers available. I contacted specialists without needing the insurer’s authorization or a doctor’s referral.

I used every service possible and didn’t experience any issues. My insurance agent gave me his WhatsApp number and assisted me when needed.

Whenever I travel beyond the coverage of my Colombian insurance, IMG becomes my preferred travel health insurance provider for global emergency coverage. At this moment a zero deductible IMG policy costs me $43 per month.

Paying Cash for Treatment In Foreign Countries

Most of the time I pay cash for everything except for emergency treatments during travel, and the bill usually costs less than I expect. I’ve never bothered asking about prices before receiving treatment but it’s probably something I should do to avoid a costly surprise.  

Everyone’s health situation is different. Paying cash for affordable treatment works because I can get what I need, when I need it, without an insurance plan dictating my options.

The table below highlights the costs of services I feel comfortable mentioning:

Out-of-Pocket costs for Treatments in Private Foreign Clinics

A Healthy Vacation

This is by far my favorite incentive! I like to order up a panel of health checkups then go lounge at the beach. For my friends with jobs, now there’s no reason to let those paid vacation hours go unused because vacations can be great for your health.

As you can see, I support using the same outsourcing tactics that the healthcare industry uses to reduce costs and maintain quality. When American companies realize our money is filling someone else’s pockets, that’ll drive change in the healthcare industry.  

Freedom is a Choice,

Lee Miles

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