Can't Afford That Operation? Fly to Another Country
The congressional budget office (CBO) releases its updated long-term projections for Medicare and Medicaid this week. They will almost certainly show a frightening story.
Healthcare costs in the
While healthcare costs pose a problem everywhere, the
This gap suggests one obvious way to deal with this projected explosion of healthcare costs. If our political system is too corrupt to allow for meaningful healthcare reform in the
This actually would not be as hard to implement as it may first appear. The major government healthcare program is Medicare, which primarily serves a population of retirees. (Medicaid expenditures also disproportionately go the elderly.) Suppose that Medicare beneficiaries were given a voucher that allowed them to buy into the healthcare systems of other countries. (A simple quality control mechanism would be a requirement that the country must have a longer life expectancy than the
The voucher could be set at a level that is roughly halfway between the average cost of providing care for people over age 65 in other countries and the cost of providing care for that person under Medicare. If a beneficiary opts to take part in this Medicare Choice Plus programme then they use their voucher to buy into the healthcare system in
That difference could be serious money. According to calculations based on CBO projections, in 2040 a couple would be able to pocket more than $14,000 a year if they opted into the British healthcare system. By 2060, their projected pocket money from these vouchers would exceed $30,000 a year. Going out to 2080, a couple could earn themselves almost $70,000 a year if they chose to get their healthcare from the Spanish system (all numbers are in 2007 dollars).
People opting for a foreign healthcare system could decide to move to the country whose system they have chosen. Alternatively, they could stay in the
Of course the idea of Medicare beneficiaries flying around the world for healthcare is ridiculous. The rational solution is to fix the
Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.