Even with a good health plan, saving money on medical expenses can be tough. Deductibles, co-insurance and copays add up quickly. And elective procedures may not be covered at all. Note that open enrollment for individual and family plans ends on Feb. 15. Here are essential facts to know if you're buying a health plan. But here's one way to beat your health insurance and get that needed dental work or bariatric surgery: Go abroad. In 2014, roughly 1 million Americans were expected to travel abroad for medical care, according to the Center for Medical Tourism Research in San Antonio. "That would be almost a 10-fold increase from the roughly 130,000 who traveled abroad for medical care just a few years ago," says Gabrielle Redford, senior editor of AARP magazine, which covered the growing trend in its October/November 2014 issue. Why travel? The savings. Many elective procedures cost substantially less outside the United States. For example, according to data collected by AARP:
Angioplasty in the U.S. averages $47,000. In the UK, it's $8,000.
A hip replacement in the U.S. is typically at least $33,000, while in Costa Rica it's $14,500.
Gastric bypass in the U.S. is $18,000, while in India it's $6,800.
Most of those who travel abroad for health care don't have health insurance that covers the procedure they want, such as cosmetic procedures, breast enhancements or dental implants. Or they may have a high deductible health plan, where the out-of-pocket expense wouldn't make financial sense. If you do consider surgery abroad, also known as medical tourism or health tourism, you must consider travel costs and the costs for a companion if you want someone to accompany you, Redford says. Even then, many people will come out ahead.
Some health insurance plans may cover procedures abroad
If you want to figure out if going abroad will save you money, apply the $6,000 rule, says Patients Beyond Borders World Edition. If the total cost of your treatment (office visits, procedure and hospital stay) would be at least $6,000 more in the U.S., go outside the country. If the difference is less than $6,000, stay home.