The Americans Are Coming!

The Americans Are Coming!
June 18 01:00 2014

Leery of traveling to a less-developed country, where places like Thailand, India and Cost Rica have become synonymous with medical tourism, some Americans – and their employers — are finding affordable treatments and procedures in nearer places – Poland, Turkey, Hungary, Germany, Italy, to name a few – and at levels on par with comparable services offered in the United States, but without the wait and at a fraction of the expense.

Governments and hospitals in Europe have only recently begun promoting their services on an international level. And, despite what many European providers predicted, U.S. employers are eager to hear what they have to say: Americans are not driven on price points alone.

Working Americans and health insurance have been linked since the start of World War II, when the federal government capped wages, forcing employers to establish other means to entice and keep employees. U.S. employers began to offer health benefits and, eventually, their employees demanded them. Business owners have been happy to oblige because the federal tax code in the United States exempts employer sponsored health plans from taxation. American employees, on the other hand, save money by buying health insurance through an employer, rather than in the individual market, where they would have to use after-tax dollars.

Fast forward to present day and passage of the Affordable Care Act – affectionately dubbed Obamacare — which doubles down on the link between employment and health insurance by mandating that large employers offer benefits or pay a penalty. Critics of Obamacare, which requires that all insurance plans cover “essential health benefits” and caps just how much employees can contribute to their own coverage, fear, as a result, that 43 million American workers will lose access to employer-based health insurance.

Hard pressed for answers and unwilling to discard benefits packages used to attract and retain top-notch talent, U.S. employers are not only asking questions of themselves, but to employees within earshot who might be contemplating serious, but routine elective surgeries like hip or knee replacement, cataract removal, a heart bypass:
Would you consider a procedure performed at a local hospital or – for that matter – at one in Asia, Europe or South America?

Employees, who have already witnessed healthcare costs shift their way, don’t need much prodding. Consider that a U.S. employee’s share of premiums increased nearly 7 percent, to $2,974 this year on average. What’s more, out-of-pocket costs also increased. The total employee cost share climbed from 34.4 percent in 2011 to 37 percent in 2014. What’s it mean? In the end, U.S. employees now pay more than $100 more each month for health insurance compared to just three years ago.

Read full story at Medical Tourism Magazine
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