Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What I’m Hearing…Medical Tourism

Last night during my standing Monday dance lesson, my Hustle dance coach told me that a friend of his is leaving for England to have hip resurfacing surgery, a procedure that’s not common here in the States. When I asked why someone would fly so far away for medical work, he said that the procedure will cost $11,000 - $14,000 less than it would here, even with the airfare and other travel expenses.

I’d heard of medical tourism before, but I didn’t really think people did it. I was wrong.

According to a survey done by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, 11% of surveyed organizations cover medical tourism. (Keep in mind these organizations are large.) In addition, some insurance companies have begun creating policies that provide incentive to covered individuals to go abroad for treatment for some medical needs.

Is this a wise idea? Depending on the country one travels to, is this safe? Money is definitely important, and medical costs here in the US are high. However, is saving a few thousand dollars worth the risks and discomfort associated with 6+ hour plane flights to foreign lands, without one’s family, to interact with medical professionals and anesthesiologists who may not be fluent in English? Perhaps instead of “outsourcing” our medical care the insurance companies should cut down on the level of profits they enjoy at our expense.

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