Health tourism to the US

So, Obamacare has passed.

This now makes health tourism to the US a viable proposition.

We know very well that the treatment there is, certainly for certain cancers etc, vastly better than it is anywhere else. But until now of course you didn\’t go over there for such treatment because you had to pay for it directly.


So, there\’s community rating, meaning that premiums are set as the average across the group, not for you personally. There\’s no ban for pre-exisiting illnesses and finally, there\’s guaranteed issue.

So, you\’re plodding along in the ordinary manner and you get one of those diseases which the government health care systems of other countries deal with well and stay home and get treated. Or die, whichever.

Or perhaps you get one of those diseaes which, say, the NHS doesn\’t treat. Either not well or on cost grounds (say, Herceptin). It now pays to immigrate to the US (and for anyone with a degree it\’s really not that difficult to set it up so that you can) pay $10,000 or so a year in premiums and consume all the health care you want. And thus possibly live as opposed to certainly die at home.

I wonder if the incentive for people to do this has been built into hte cost projections used to pass the law? I doubt it somehow….

9 thoughts on “Health tourism to the US”

  1. Also, I’m not sure how it works under the US system, but certainly in Australia temporary migrants on work visas (which is the only shot you’ve got at US residency without a relative or a green card lotto win – you’d need to stick around a couple of years before being eligible for a green card of your own) aren’t eligible for Medicare.

    Tim adds: No, I’m not meaning Medicare. Under this new system you can pitch up and purchase insurance after you’ve been diagnosed. Insurance company must issue policy, must cover pre existing diseases and must be at average population rates.

  2. Sorry, I could’ve phrased that better.

    In Australia, which has universal healthcare (called Medicare) for permanent residents and citizens, foreign workers/students on short-term visas aren’t eligible for said programme. I’m eligible for it solely because I’m from the UK, we have the NHS, and Australia and the UK have a reciprocal coverage arrangement.

    I don’t know for certain that foreign workers/students on short-term visas won’t be given the right to buy the government-spec insurance policy under Obama’s system, but I’d be surprised if they were given how most nations treat healthcare for people who aren’t citizens, permanent residents, or covered by reciprocal agreements.

    Tim adds: I was thinking specifically of an H1 B visa which, if you’ve got a degree, is an easy enough thing to organise. And yes, you can buy insurance with that. I’m not even suggesting that you’d get a subsidy….just that guarnateed issue, at community rates, with a pre existing condition, would make it worthwhile for certain diseases.

  3. Yes, I agree (and yes, of course you can buy health insurance on an H1B, otherwise you’d be shafted) – what I’m saying is that I doubt the bill will apply the guaranteed issue provisions to foreigners on H1B visas, and instead they’ll continue paying something much closer to the current rate and suffering the current exclusions. I could be wrong – let’s check the details when the final version is passed.

    Tim adds: Which pretty much brings us back to my original speculation. Have they thought of this or not?

  4. “Have they thought of this or not?”

    Really hard to answer that-very few of those voting for “Obama Care” have read the bill as yet.
    Also, many, if not most, of the new requirements do not take effect for abut 4 years, so don’t pack bags in any hurry. But, apparently, the “must issue” requirement for all policies will apply to illegals, so if it turns out not to apply to visa holders-just overstay.

  5. Why should we expect the pro-Bill people to have read it? When Ken Clarke was all enthusiasm for the European Constitution, he was maneouvred into admitting he hadn’t read it. Par for the course among the air-headier politicians, it would seem. I don’t suppose that there’s any reason to think that Obama has read the “Obamacare” bill, is there?

  6. Now that it has passed, the next pressure point will concentrate on extending cover to the undocumented. There are already millions of illegals from Mexico, but the pull factor will become evn greater, and could even extend to Canadians who have an NHS about as bad as ours.

  7. Ok, so I read the (relevant bits of) the bill, and am still not sure what the answer here is.

    It’s clear that H1B holders *won’t* have access to the public/funded option, as won’t illegal immigrants.

    I still can’t work out exactly who the other provisions apply to. I *think* that if your employer is obliged to offer the “must issue” plan, then they must offer it to non-immigrant visa holders as well. But I don’t think that non-employer insurers are obliged to offer it to non-immigrants or illegal immigrants.

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