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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Vacationing like the Kennedy's :: "Medical Tourist Adventures?"

All is Vanity? Nope.
Retracted Opinions by Pat Darnell  |  Apr 7, 2013  |  Bryan TX

[Picture LINK] The source of inspiration for Adad Hannah’s installation is an image made in 1892 by an eighteen-year-old illustrator named Charles Allan Gilbert (1873-1929). Gilbert’s drawing, entitled All Is Vanity, remains one of the world’s most famous optical illusions.

This summer, millions will be headed out to foreign lands for vacation, adventure, tourism, or just a beautiful beach.

But how about hip surgery or a multiple bypass or a facelift? You might find yourself on the Buddha tour to save your life, or improve your looks. For example, Thailand is an exotic vacation spot known for its Buddhas, its beaches, its brothels, and the bustle of Bangkok. It is also a medical vacationer's hotspot.

One thing remains totally common to all humans -- their bodies. A doctor, surgeon, nurse, or dentist can live anywhere in the world, and practice his trade. Humans will be humans. Is it vanity that delivers us to foreign countries for medical touch ups? Not really. It is mainly about money.

Quietly, American retirees have moved to Mexico for "a health care plan with no limits, no deductibles, free medicines, tests, X-rays, eyeglasses, even dental work — all for a flat fee of $250 or less a year." Retiree emigrants call it the "healthcare alternative." There are "between 40,000 and 80,000 U.S. retirees living in Mexico."
" ... Bob Story, 75, of St. Louis, had prostate-reduction surgery at an IMSS hospital in Mazatlán and discovered that patients were expected to bring their own pillows. It was a small price to pay, he said, for a surgery that would have cost thousands of dollars back home.
"I would say it's better than any health plan I've had in the States," he said. (Chris Hawley, USA TODAY. Updated 9/1/2009) ... "

Most of the following referenced articles are from a year or more ago.

Vacation, Adventure And Surgery? - CBS News: "A growing number of tourists are doing just that, combining holidays with health care, and that's because a growing number of countries are offering first-rate medical care at Third-World prices. Many of these medical tourists can't afford health care at home (the 40 million uninsured Americans, for example). Others are going for procedures not covered by their insurance: cosmetic surgery or infertility treatment, for example."

'via Blog this'
" ... The Bumrungrad hospital, in Bangkok, treats four hundred thousand foreign patients annually. Malaysia had almost six hundred thousand medical tourists last year. And South Korea had more than a hundred thousand, nearly a third of them American.
For Americans, the attraction is obvious: medical care is a lot cheaper abroad. At CIMA Hospital, in Costa Rica, for instance, hip-replacement surgery costs around fifteen thousand dollars, roughly a sixth of the average here. (April 16, 2012. James Surowiecki. LINK) ... "
" ... A few years ago, the grocery-store chain Hannaford set up a partnership for the benefit of its employees with a well-accredited Singaporean hospital. Singapore is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but medical care there is still significantly cheaper than in the U.S., so the arrangement looked like a model for how medical tourism might work. But none of Hannaford’s workers were interested in going to Singapore. (ibid. Surowiecki.) ... "

Uncertainty has kept companies and institutions from signing up for cheaper overseas healthcare. Terrorists attacks in India. Hamas rockets in Israel. Kidnappings in Mexico. Concerns about security in foreign countries might have dissuaded medical tourism and surgery vacations, but the idea is in its infancy. US Healthcare providers, soon to be reformed by Obama-care, have high deductibles on medical procedures and surgeries. Healthcare companies for profit will have to revamp their fee basis, but:
" ... That’s because often the incentive for individuals is cost. In the U.S., a hip-replacement surgery can cost $30,000 to $40,000 for uninsured patients, according to BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, compared with about $9,000 in India and $12,000 in Singapore.

But unless employees are uninsured or underinsured—that is, they have high out-of-pocket costs associated with surgeries—there is no financial incentive steering them overseas for care.

In 2007, some 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for care, according to estimates by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, which is part of the Deloitte audit and advisory firm. Most were uninsured or under-insured individuals. A few were employees whose firms gave them an incentive to go. (Jeremy Smerd. Published: January 13, 2009 Updated: September 15, 2011. LINK) ... "
This medical vacation concept is unusual because the patient -- in need of less costly healthcare -- is traveling across national borders from a more highly economically developed country to less developed countries. Providing the patient can survive the rigors of the trips, the new model of the medical tourist is "one jetting around the world for often serious, and complex, medical and surgical care."

The United States spends two-and-a-half times more than OECD countries,  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, average health expenditure per person ... USA even spends twice as much as France, for example, a country which is generally accepted as having very good health services. "At 17.4% of GDP in 2009, US health spending is half as much again as any other country, and nearly twice the average. (ibid. LINK) ... "

The traveling out of US for healthcare is a symptom rather than a solution. It is a way of getting around the problem rather than fixing it.

Table. Percentages of How Patients get information about Overseas facilities
Method ... Alternate Medicine -- Modern Medicine
Word of mouth from old patients ... 19 (100%) -- 15 (88.24%)
Own Website ... 14(73.68%) -- 10 (58.82%)
Website of Tourism Department ... 5 (26.32%) -- 3 (17.65%)
Advertising ... 1 (5.26%) -- 1 (5.88%)
Direct Marketing ... 1 (5.26%) -- 1 (5.88%)
Fairs ... 1 (5.26%) -- 0
(This Table shows the passive attitude of both Alternate Medicine as well as Modern Medicine by stressing on ‘Word of mouth from old patients’. Website development is the only serious effort the majority of players take as an individual initiative.)

All Is Vanity :: Original source image by Charles Allen Gilbert, 1892
" ... ENTER the main cardiac operating-room at Bangalore's Wockhardt hospital ... many innovations in health care that have been devised in India. Its entrepreneurs are channelling the country's rich technological and medical talent towards frugal approaches that have much to teach the rich world's bloated health-care systems. Dr Jawali is feted today as a pioneer, but he remembers how Western colleagues ridiculed him for years for advocating his inventive “awake surgery”. He thinks that snub reflects an innate cultural advantage enjoyed by India. (Health care in India. the economist. Apr 16th 2009. LINK) ... "
Rich countries spend more than poor countries.... for nearly every country, if you know how rich they are, you can predict their health spending per person per year to within a few hundred dollars. The United States is an exception – "Americans spend nearly $3000 per person per year more than Swiss people, even though Swiss people have about the same level of income. (Source: OECD Health Data 2011.)"

That is why for pure vanity, or for saving on costly medical procedures and surgeries, many patients take the option to travel to less rich countries.


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