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More Americans become medical tourists

Updated: Wednesday, October 2 2013, 09:00 AM CDT

The cost of healthcare in the U.S. is proving to be bad business for some companies.

Why they are sending employees on vacation to cut their costs.

"I'm so scared"

This is the first time 39-year-old Joy Guion of Hickory, North Carolina has been on a plane.

"I'm so excited"

Her destination?

The sun soaked hot spot:  Costa rica.  A four star hotel.  Local driver. Personal concierge.   But a full fledge vacation it's not.

Joy is a medical tourist, she's come to Costa Rica for weight loss surgery because of a family history of diabetes and heart disease.

"Could you have afforded this at home?"


"No chance?"


And what's more her company is paying the entire bill.  They gave Joy a choice: A traditional insurance plan or outsourcing her care in a foreign country.

"Out of pocket, how much do you have to spend?"

"Nothing. Zero."

Back home Joy's gastric sleeve surgery goes for about $30,000.  Here, less than $18,000. Her company HSM, a transportation and furniture manufacturer in Western, NC
tells ABC News it has saved nearly $10 million dollars in health care cost the past 5 years by sending close to 250 employees abroad for medical procedures.

"You're coming for a total right knee replacement"

Another HSM employee on the Costa Rica trip is 65-year-old Gary Harwell.  A retired plant manager, Gary's going for knee replacement.  His doctor earned his medical degree in Latin America but has received advanced training in the U.S.

In the U.S., Gary's knee replacement would have cost  more than $50,000 but in Costa Rica it's half that. In the U.S. Gry and Joy would have each paid $3,000 out of pocket.  In
Costa Rica,  nothing.

And get this.

When the bandages come off Joy and Gary will get a bonus check for at least $2,500 from their company:  A percentage of the corporate savings in insurance costs.But medical experts who are tracking the increasing number of Americans going abroad for  medical  care are concerned.

"What are the biggest risks and challenges with medical tourism?"

"Risk of getting an infection while abroad, risk of a poorly performed procedure," said Glenn.

At this Costa Rica private hospital there has been a very low rate of problems.  So for patients like Joy the opportunity outweighs the risk.  The opportunity of a better healthier life without breaking the bank.More Americans become medical tourists

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