Monday, May 05, 2008


More Americans Shun "Best Health-Care System In The World" To Have Surgeries Performed Overseas

America has the best health-care system in the world. (Or so we've been told, over and over, by our corporate media and many of our political leaders).

Hmmmm, that I guess this would explain why more and more Americans who need complex, major surgeries are going overseas to have them performed.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

More who need major surgery are leaving U.S.

Robert Lupo of Santa Rosa had never been on an airplane until last month, when he flew to India to get his hip replaced.

The 45-year-old self-employed contractor had dropped his Kaiser coverage before an uninsured driver hit him last summer while he was riding his motorcycle. A $50,000 settlement covered those medical bills and living expenses while he was unable to work, but Lupo later learned he needed a hip replacement - a $30,000 price he couldn't afford.

With pain as his primary motivator, Lupo started researching his options online. He eventually found his way to WorldMed Assist, a 2-year-old Concord company that is part of a growing industry that makes arrangements for Americans to get medical care abroad.

Lupo's hip surgery and hospital stay cost $8,880 at Wockhardt Hospital in Bangalore. Even with the $1,300 airfare, the procedure totaled about a third of what it would have cost Lupo at a local hospital.

"My hip feels great," said Lupo, who was recovering at home while making magnets out of photographs from India to send back to the nurses and hospital staff in Bangalore. "But I really don't want to go to another Third World country again, to tell you the truth, unless I had to. This was a means to an end. But the pain was so bad I would have swum the English Channel if that's what it took."

No official statistics are kept on how many Americans travel overseas for medical care, but one estimate places the number at 150,000 in 2006.

Other trends are more clear-cut. Many Americans are uninsured - nearly 47 million at last count - and others have health insurance that does not adequately cover procedures they desperately want or need.

A medical tourism industry has grown to facilitate global health travel. A trade association to represent these companies formed last year. Also last year, a major insurer started a separate company to help members seek international care.

Crossing international borders for medical care is not new. For decades, Americans have sought certain types of care in other countries, specifically elective or cosmetic procedures, along with treatments that are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

But now, industry experts say, Americans are going overseas for increasingly complex surgeries. In addition, more patients seem willing to accept that quality of care in some foreign hospitals may be the same or higher as that found on U.S. soil, at a fraction of the cost.

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