The economic recession is driving down healthcare costs. The health care industry is reducing rates to cash paying customers, many of which are Canadians frustrated by doctor shortages and long wait times at home.
Kim Priest of CTV News is reporting our down economy has helped reduce prices for medical procedures, allowing middle class Canadians who previously couldn’t afford it to head south for heart operations, hip replacements and other procedures.
Open-heart surgery once cost upwards of $100,000 in the United States, but a triple bypass can now be had for as little as $16,000 U.S. And there are bargains on hip and knee replacements too: the going rate of $53,000 can be negotiated to less than $19,000.
While no one tracks how many Canadians travel to the United States for medical care, the issue has prompted university studies in both countries. And medical brokers – of which there are about two dozen across the country – say the numbers of people travelling for care are up.
“More and more facilities are contacting us, saying, ‘How can we get in on the action,’ ” said Rick Baker, founder of Timely Medical Alternatives, which has seen revenues more than double over the past year. “We have negotiated prices that are rock bottom.”
A troubled U.S. economy, a health-care system with empty beds, and a strong Canadian dollar have created medical bargains for people who have the cash. They are finding treatment that once cost as much as a house is now available for the price of an economy car.
Canadian patients paying upfront means less paperwork; administration is one reason U.S. health care is so costly.
Mr. Baker said he has sent about 3,500 patients to the United States for care over the past eight years. He used to have to persuade hospitals to drop their prices, but now they contact him and offer to match low prices he has negotiated elsewhere.
For example, when Oklahoma Heart Hospital in Oklahoma City – which boasts one of the lowest prices for cardiac-bypass surgery – opened a second $98-million U.S. facility in the same city, it contacted Mr. Baker wanting to get some of his business. He told them he already had a hospital that did those operations for $16,000 U.S. in Wichita, Kan.
“I said, ‘Look, here are the prices we’re getting at this other hospital. We would dearly love to send them to you, but the price is the price and people can’t afford more,” Mr. Baker said in a telephone interview from Vancouver. “And they said: ‘Until we can fill this hospital, we will match this price.’ ”
It is amazing that when the delivery of healthcare is negotiated between the patient (and his broker) and the provider the free market principles result in a downward pressure on cost. I only wonder if Obama is successful in transforming the U.S. health care system into his dream of a Canadian style single payer system where the Canadians will go for care?