Outsource your gallbladder surgery

June 29, 2006

Today, while sipping my morning coffee, I tuned the TV to C-Span 2, as I sometimes do on Wednesdays, to watch the entertaining spectacle that is Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons. “How entertaining”, I thought, “I wish congressional hearings were that interesting”, and with that thought, I surfed over to C-Span 1, where I found Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) chairing a hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

I thought I had picked a loser, and was about to switch back to Tony Blair’s smirking one-liners, when I caught an interesting phrase: “medical tourism”. After listening for a minute, I put down the remote and sat in amazement while several witnesses testified about the latest form of corporate outsourcing. It seems that medical insurance firms in the US are paying to send patients to India to have surgery. Did I find “The Daily Show” by mistake? No, it was C-Span, and this was for real.

Indian-run brokerage firms in the U.S. will arrange for a patient in need of an expensive medical procedure to have it done in India. A family member can go along. Following a hospital stay, the patient and accompanying family member spend some time recuperating at a resort! The cost for the complete package—including travel—is significantly less than the cost of the medical procedure alone, when done in a U.S. hospital. In one example, described by a corporate benefits director, an employee needed a heart valve replacement. Cost estimates from U.S. hospitals ranged from $65,000 to $95,000. The entire package, arranged through IndUShealth, was $18,000.

In addition to expensive procedures covered by insurance, this sort of arrangement works for elective procedures, such as cosmetic surgery. I can just see the advertising slogans: Leave your belly in New Delhi , or Fix your tush in the Hindu Kush.

And to think that I was once amazed when I heard that Americans were crossing the border into Canada to have prescriptions filled! If we don’t get a handle on health care and education, we are going to be a Third World country soon.




3 Responses to “Outsource your gallbladder surgery”

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