US Companies Look to 'Medical Tourism' to Cut Costs

Some companies will give employees all-expenses paid trips for outsourced surgeries.
9:01 | 10/01/13

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for US Companies Look to 'Medical Tourism' to Cut Costs
Breaking news as the government officially shuts down at midnight for the first time in nearly two decades after a budget stand off over obama care. The president just released a message to the troops assuring them that they will remain on active duty. Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It's failed to pass a budget. And as a result much of our government has now shut down until congress funds it again. Washington d.C. Alone now likely to lose around $200 million a day. Growth expected to slow. But in just a few hours, the affordable care act will still roll out as planned. Love it or hate it, obama care won't change some fundamental issues. Like some companies, giving employees the option to go abroad for cheaper medical care. Already more than a million a year travel out for necessary procedures and there could be more now. Could this become the new face of health care? This is my family. They're all going to the airport with me. I have everything. Tonight joy, age 39, married mother of two, leaves on a journey. Leaving north carolina to save her life and not kill her family savings. I'm going to miss my family a whole lot. So I'm scared. With a family history of diabetes and heart disease, she's going to the only place she can afford gastric bypass weight loss surgery. Her destination, costa rica. A tourist hot spot and booming in the business of medical tourism. For joy it will be an adventure of a lifetime. All of this paid for by her employer. I guess this is it. Joining her on the trip is gary harwell, 65. I just want it to be over so he won't hurt so bad. Your first plane ride. I know. I'm so excited. Doing things well. With an annual salary of $28,000. Even with insurance she couldn't afford the out of pocket expense. Could you have afforded this procedure on your own? No. Gary's procedure worked but he was prepared to live with severe near pain. It is for me to get things taken care of. So it's that important to you to get things done? Yeah. I feel like I'm slowing her down. And I'm slowing me down because I'm not able to do the things that I need to do. Both did their research. Gary and the doctor earned his medical degree and received additional training in the u.S. I ask this question respectfully. How does your training compare with an american physician? I don't want to be compared. I am just another option. They are a part of a growing wave of americans frustrating with the cost of health care. But here's what's new. Their company back home in western carolina is paying the entire bill. Everything. Four star resort hotel where they will stay for at least a week. And then there is the personal driver. A built in best friend, what's called a patient assistant along to fill out forms, answer questions including translation. And the love doesn't stop there. A private room in a private hospital with a pull out bed for guests and the pampering comes from the surgeon who offers reassurance in one of the many scheduled consultations. You have somebody here? No. Don't worry. We will be your family here. It was enough to move joy to tears. In the u.S., Gary's knee replacement would have cost more than $50,000. In costa rica, it's half that. Back home, joy's surge is 30,000. Here less than 18,000. In the u.S. They would have each paid $3,000 out of pocket. In costa rica, nothing. Their employers say it just makes economic sense. They have sent close to 200 employees abroad for surgery. The fact that you have decided to give your employees an option a chance to go abroad for health care, what does that say about the american health care system? The american health care system is broken at the moment. How? The error rates are probably the high nest the world. The cost is also the highest in the world. What will obama care mean, do you think, for medical tourism? Increase it? Decrease it? I think it will increase because companies will be looking to reduce costs. So you expect this surgery will change your quality of life? Certainly. Without a doubt. Joy and gary could back out at any time. But they are going through with it. What have your friends said about it? And that it's going to cost you nothing. You lucky dog. Really? Who do you work for? I wish that we was offered stuff like that. Did you sleep much? Yeah, as a matter of fact, i slept very well. Day three. It is 4:55 a.M., Way early in the morning and gary is headed to the hospital for his surgery. And waiting at the hospital door is gomez, gary's patient assistant. A kind of personal escort. His knee surgery will take nearly two hours. We noticed during gary's procedure that much of the equipment is actually made in the u.S. There were certain pieces of equipment that they were using and made in the united states but it was cheaper for them to purchase in costa rica than here at home. We had two partial knee replacements. 90,000 for the two devices alo alone. That is probably $3,000 for those devices. So the economics you just couldn't ignore? No. After successful surgery, gary heads to recovery. About that time -- I am ready. Joy shows up for a gastric sleeve surgery. That's where we heard another american voice. Next to joy is fay holmes. She and her husband moved here in part because of the cheap quality health care here. You talk to friends in the states considering going abroad for surgery, what would you say? I say that's a really good idea. What were your thoughts? Hell yeah. Her procedure also goes well. There is one more bonus. When the bandages come off, each will receive a check for at least $2500, a percentage of the money saved in insurance costs. That sounds like a win win for everybody. It is. It has to be. As I have said all along, it is kind of a no-brainer. The medical experts who are tracking the increasing number of americans now more than a million going abroad for medical procedures are concerned. The biggest risks are an inabltd to sue for medical malpractice risk of getting an infection. Risk of a poorly performed procedure. Daily visits from a private nurse, access to free cell phone service to call home. Eveough it's for my health, that's my benefit. And the rest is to help us all. It's a wonderful thing. Christmas is coming right around the corner. And so, it's all like a win-win situation to me. Getting paid to go abroad for medical care is tough to compete

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"duration":"9:01","description":"Some companies will give employees all-expenses paid trips for outsourced surgeries.","mediaType":"default","section":"ABCNews/Nightline","id":"20427966","title":"US Companies Look to 'Medical Tourism' to Cut Costs","url":"/Nightline/video/us-companies-medical-tourism-cut-costs-20427966"}