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By Tom Dennen, the paranoid historian (Reporter)
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Average Cost for Heart Bypass Surgery in the U.S. is $73,400. In Chile, $12,400, $8,900 In Argentina. Return Air tickets? $2,000 Max. Will Obamacare Pay? Or Maybe Bill Gates?

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“…  providers of medical care in the United States, drug companies, medical equipment suppliers, doctors and others who benefit from high prices, are far more powerful than steelworkers or textile workers.”


Fact: Health care costs in the United States are hugely out of line with health care costs elsewhere in the world. There is a huge gap with costs in the developing world…

And, this gap is not explained by better care in the United States. We actually have worse outcomes compared with most other wealthy countries.

What fans of the market everywhere should be able to see is that this enormous gap in costs leads to huge possibilities for gains from trade. Just as people in the United States can benefit from buying cheaper steel or clothes produced in other countries – and those countries can benefit from selling these products to us – we can also gain from getting cheaper medical care in other countries.

   This is where Bill Gates and his fortune could make a huge difference. Suppose he established an insurance company that gave people the option of getting some of their health care in other countries. The potential savings would be enormous. For example, according to the International Federation of Health Plans the average cost of a hip replacement in the United States is $40,400. The average cost in Spain $7,700 and in Argentina just $3,400. For heart bypass surgery the average cost in the United States is $73,400 compared with $12,400 in Chile or $8,900 in Argentina.

The insurance could be structured so that people in need of these services could still get them in the United States and be covered as they would with other standard insurance policies. However they could also have the option of using high quality facilities in other countries and splitting the savings with the Bill Gates Insurance Company. To ensure that the population of the receiving country benefits as well, the insurer could pay 10 percent of the cost to support the training of additional doctors and other health care professionals in the country.

Imagine someone needing bypass surgery chose to get it in Chile. Their half of the $60,000 in savings would be enough to cover the airfare and hotel stay of several family members for several weeks and still leave tens of thousands of dollars to put in the bank. The same would be true for many other expensive procedures; patients would see an enormous dividend from escaping the wasteful U.S. health care system.

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