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Comments by YACCS
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why we need single payer health care

Need an operation? Here's
your air ticket to ... India


Don't look now, but that operation you've been putting off may be outsourced - to India.

American companies are encouraging workers to travel to India and other countries for costly medical procedures, Business Insurance magazine reports.

"It saves you literally tens of thousands of dollars," said Bonnie Blackley, benefits director at Canton, N.C.-based Blue Ridge Paper Products.

A heart valve replacement, for example, that runs between $68,000 and $198,000 in the United States costs only $18,000 in India.

Blackley said that although her company's survival depended on keeping medical costs in check, local health care providers "offered no extra discount or anything."

So she contracted with IndUShealth, a "medical tourism" company that specializes in arranging employee travel to accredited hospitals and board-certified physicians in India.


But Chuck Kelley, medical director at Outrigger Enterprises Inc. in Honolulu, told the magazine it will be hard to persuade employees to travel abroad for medical care.

"Health care treatment is a very personal issue for Americans, and when they are sick, they want to be close to their family and in the care of providers they know and trust - even if they are not the best," Kelley said. "They will settle for inferior and more expensive treatment to be home."

Companies like Blue Ridge plan to give their employees a financial incentive to go abroad by offering to cover them and their dependents for any out-of-pocket costs.

Stupid doesn't describe this, nor does the potential legal liability the company faces if the surgery goes badly in place without malpractice suits.

People want serious surgery at home, close to family and friends. It may save money to go to India, but who the hell would do that?

I wonder how many people will do this. Hell, I think the suggestion may lead to legal action.

Jen here again. This is actually a tad old in the way of news--one of those PBS Think Tank News Programs (News Hour??) did a whole special on this.

Yes, it's legal.

Yes, if anything goes wrong in India, the patient is fucked, and has no legal recourse in the States. People are too fast to yell "I'll sue!" not realizing that unless your name is George W. Bush, you can't just run into a foreign country and start demanding that YOUR idea of a legal system can be imposed in foreign courts. A patient in India would have jackshit zero standing in a US court, and the organizers of these companies KNOW that. Believe me, they wouldn't be in the business if it wasn't a bulletproof proposition for them.

Oddly enough, the standard of care is actually often much higher in India--after all, over there, Joe Middle Executive is getting the surgeons and the hospital suite (and aftercare) normally given only to the Indian Donald Trumps. At home, he'd be turned around in the system as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

And yes, this points up why we need a more sane healthcare system. 33%--that's 33 cents of every dollar, give or take a few cents depending whose numbers you use--of every healthcare dollar spent in the US goes to middlement like HMO's or other "administrative bodies." Even just the simple act of cutting out that waste would make a huge difference.

Until then, anyone with the money will be learning how to say "bedpan call" in Hindi if they need anything involving an extended stay or rehab.

posted by Steve @ 12:04:00 AM

12:04:00 AM

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