Lower costs, quality care, lure medical tourists abroad

“I was a walking time bomb. I knew I had to get on that plane if I wanted to be around to see my grandkids.”

Sandra Giustina is a 61-year-old uninsured American. For three years she saved her money in hopes of affording heart surgery to correct her atrial fibrillation. “They [U.S. hospitals] told me it would be about $175,000, and there was just no way could I come up with that,” Giustina said.

So, with a little digging online, she found several high quality hospitals vying for her business, at a fraction of the U.S. cost. Within a month, she was on a plane from her home in Las Vegas, Nevada, to New Delhi, India. Surgeons at Max Hospital fixed her heart for “under $10,000 total, including travel.”

Giustina is just one of millions around the world journeying outside their native land for medical treatment, a phenomenon known as “medical tourism.” Experts say the trend in global health care has just begun. Next year alone, an estimated 6 million Americans will travel abroad for surgery, according to a 2008 Deloitte study. “Medical care in countries such as India, Thailand and Singapore can cost as little as 10 percent of the cost of comparable care in the United States,” the report found.

I watched Dr. Gupta’s coverage of this on CNN. I’m at an age, of course, when all of this is necessarily interesting.

Living in a border state, I already have a number of friends and family who regularly cross into Mexico for medical and dental treatment, prescription drugs. All for the same reason. Medical practitioners as a class, insurance companies, healthcare facilities in the United States are pricing themselves out of reach for workingclass families and individuals.

And they don’t give a damn. They’re making enough money from those who can afford them – to ignore the rest.

4 thoughts on “Lower costs, quality care, lure medical tourists abroad

  1. mattresses says:

    I’ve known several people who’ve taken the medical tourism route. One needed an operation on his hip and what would have cost $20,000-25,000 in the US cost just $2,000 in New Delhi, at an excellent hospital. It’s good you’re publicizing this possibility as it can be a financial lifesaver for many people.

  2. Li Deng says:

    Another reason medical tourism is taking hold is the growing number of companies, like WorldMed Assist, that make it easy for patients to travel for medical care. They facilitate everything from helping patients decide which country, which hospital, which surgeon, to transferring medical records and setting up conference calls between patient and surgeon, arranging travel and booking hotels, and keeping friends and family back home informed of the patient’s progress. Patients need to select a reputable facilitator—one that performs multi-day, on-site audits of each facility in its network, one that knows the top surgeons at each of its hospitals, one that’s passionate about each patient having a good experience from first contact through full recovery. A sample of procedures offered at top rated hospitals abroad is available at http://www.worldmedassist.com/procedures.htm

  3. Chris Gardner says:

    I just returned from Asia after having a hip replacement through an American company called MedRetreat. I am now a total believer in medical tourism. Every aspect of the experience, from MedRetreat to the hospital, surgeons, nurses, hotel staff, was exceptional. I certainly plan to spread the word about my positive experience. There are too many people living in pain, not knowing that they have alternatives to the high cost care in the U.S., especially if they are uninsured or underinsured.

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