Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Medical Tourism

It's easy to see why people are tempted to combine travel with surgery: The cost of medical procedures is often much lower abroad. For example, Howard Staab, a 53-year-old North Carolina contractor, was healthy in the summer of 2004--or so he thought, until his doctor found a life-threatening heart condition during a routine physical.

Uninsured, Staab had always paid out-of-pocket for medical care. But discussions with the local hospital revealed uninsured patients pay much higher fees than insurers do. Staab faced a $200,000 bill for the heart valve surgery he needed if it was performed there.

In September 2004, Staab got his surgery at a state-of-the-art facility in New Delhi, India. He is part of a growing number of people traveling to other countries in search of low-cost medical care. Staab's surgery cost $6,700; post-operative lodging and airfare added another $1,500 to the tab. is a Web site that connects patients with high-quality medical facilities in India, Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

When potential clients contact, the medical staff reviews their medical history to assess whether they are well enough to travel; some people may have waited too long to seek care and therefore are not healthy enough to make a long flight to India or Thailand.

Staff members then help clients choose appropriate physicians and destinations for care; the medical records are digitized and placed online to allow physicians in the destination country to easily review the patients' medical histories; then arranges conference calls between the physician and patient to discuss the procedure.

Once the patient chooses a physician, arrangements are made for the procedure. assigns a case manager from the destination country; the site often arranges travel and lodging as well.

A country manager coordinates any additional requirements such as cell phone service and airport transportation; case managers attend to all needs that arise while the patient is in the destination country.

Although insurers currently do not make medical travel part of their provider networks, they may in the future, according to Mercer Health & Benefits, a national consultancy group for human resources managers.

Source: Devon Herrick, "
Medical Tourism Prompts Price Discussions," Heartland Institute, October 1, 2006.


At 9/27/2006 8:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is good stuff. I like the tax n' spend items best. Keep it Up.
buck in mpls (I'm a frequent visitor and a first time caller)

At 9/28/2006 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting how uninsured folks pay more for the same medical procedures than insured folks pay in the United States.

My mother-in-law was charged $800 for a ride in an ambulance from the hospital to an MRI office in the parking lot of the same hospital. I checked and found the the rate for people who had insurance was $180. After I made a call to a Senator Stabenow, the charge was magically reduced to $250.

I understand some of the merits of profit maximization and price discrimination, but why do medical providers attempt to prey on those who are too weak to defend themselves? It shouldn't take political pressure for business to do the right thing. Don't these people have mothers, too?


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