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More Americans Going Overseas for Surgery

More Americans Going Overseas for Surgery

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reporting You've heard of outsourcing jobs, but how about outsourcing important medical surgeries. Fortune 500 companies are thinking about it.

A few months ago, Kent Droesbeke needed major surgery to replace both knees. "My knees hurt so bad that I can't continue," Kent said.

Michael Hornholtz wanted the severe pain in a once-broken nose fixed. "For many years I had rivers of mucus coming out of my nose," Michael explained.

But instead of undergoing surgery, both men hopped on a plane for surgery overseas at dramatically reduced rates, about one-fifth of what it would cost at home. Now both men have returned; Kent from India with two new knees and Michael from Singapore with no more pain.

"I'm 100 percent convinced that I did the right thing," Michael said.

"I'm really starting to enjoy life again, and I'm looking forward to it more," Kent said.

The two men are part of a growing trend: medical tourism, or patients without borders. Last year, half a million Americans trekked overseas for big-ticket medical procedures.

Orthopedic, cardiovascular, even cancer surgeries are being done in foreign countries. "We've had breast tumors removed for $6,000 and that's inclusive of a 10-day stay," explained Rudy Rupek of PlanetHospital.

Rupek runs PlanetHospital, one of a growing number of companies helping Americans find affordable medical care overseas, all at U.S. accredited hospitals

The patients are mostly middle class and uninsured. "We're also getting a lot of small businesses who are getting crippled trying to offer health care," Rupek said.

That's not all, health insurer Blue Shield of California now offers a low cost plan called "Access Baja." The HMO allows members to seek care in Mexico.

Dr. Arnold Millstein of Pacific Business Group on Health is studying overseas care at the request of several Fortune 500 companies.

"This change is inevitable," Millstein said. "I predict in 15 years that it will be absolutely routine that in American health plans insureds will be offered choices at accredited hospitals outside the U.S. at substantially reduced payment levels."

PlanetHospital has a fee of $395, and medical malpractice is handled according to the laws of the country where services are performed.

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