Free Trade in Health Care: The Gains from Globalized Medicare and Medicaid

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October 2009, Dean Baker and Hye Jin Rho

The huge gap between the cost of health care in the United States and the cost in other countries with comparable health care outcomes suggests the potential for substantial gains from trade. This paper describes one mechanism for taking advantage of these gains – through a globalization of the country’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. The projections in this paper suggest that the country’s long-term budget situation would be substantially improved if beneficiaries of these two programs over the age of 65 were allowed to take advantage of the lower-cost health care available in other countries (that also have higher life expectancies than the U.S.). This could also allow them to enjoy much higher retirement incomes than they would otherwise receive.

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