November 3, 2009

Medical Tourism - Available Soon for Americans Should ObamaCare Pass!

Hatched by Sachi

One of the fastest growing businesses in India is medical tourism. It's exactly what it sounds like: Patients who are unable to get medical care travel to India, at their own expense, to buy what they're denied in their home countries.

"Medical" tourism in India has been in existence for more than two centuries, with people from all over the world going to India seeking mystical oriental healing. But the new trend of medical tourism is something entirely different. The patients are not looking for Oriental mysticism or magic; they seek ordinary, reliable, modern Western medicine -- which is increasingly rationed or just plain not available in a number of supposedly civilized countries -- especially the United Kingdom and Canada.

And why would that be? What do those two countries in common? Government run "socialized" medicine, of course. In recent years, Europeans who cannot obtain necessary medical treatment in their own countries are booking flights to and reserving hospital beds in the world's second most populous country.

In the past few weeks, congressional Democrats and the administration of Barack H. Obama have hawked ObamaCare by trotting out scores of alleged patients to cry their tales of woe: The for-profit American health-insurance industry is corrupt and evil, taking years' worth of premiums while refusing to pay for medical care.

But such horror stories are not the norm; overwhelmingly, Americans with non-governmental health insurance are quite happy with it. The real insurance nightmares come from countries like Great Britain and Canada.

The health care systems in those two countries are so broken, a disturbingly large number of patients actually die while awaiting simple treaments; this of course reduces government expenditures, so the government medical providers are loathe to do anything about it. But the wait has gotten so bad, the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reports that Britain's Labour party is trying to reduce it -- down to a scant three months:

The current Labour government has now raised the stakes further. It has pledged that by 2008 there will be a maximum wait of only 18 weeks from any referral of a patient by a general practitioner to treatment in hospital if required. Such a target represents a large step up in expected performance. Current targets are that by the end of this year, no patient will wait more than 3 months for an outpatient appointment and a further 3 months for any inpatient or day-case treatment. Meeting the new target will require a massive effort, and despite considerable success to date, could it be a target too far?

Fed up with this nonsense, British patients are seeking treatment elsewhere. By a curious coincidence, so are many Oregonians, despite having a "public option" in their own state health-care system. (Or perhaps because of it.) For just one example, the "treatment" of choice by the Oregonian government bureaucrats is to offer only palliative care (relieving pain and other symptoms without actually curing the condition) -- plus a not so veiled hint that patients suffering from life-threatening cancer can always contact a physician for assisted suicide.

In Canada, the Globe and Mail (Toronto) reported last year that surgeries in the British Columbia city of Kelowna have been "postponed indefinitely" by Interior Health, the BC government health-care provider (private insurance is banned in Canada):

More than 1,000 orthopedic, gynecological and general surgery patients in Kelowna have been left wondering when their operations will take place because Interior Health has ended its contract with the private operating facility that was to do the procedures.

So many Europeans are going to India that the medical tourism industry is getting institutionalized; several travel agencies now specialize in the service, including Health Tourism India:

Some of the services that we can provide:
  • Suggesting Hospitals/Clinics as per treatment required/budget.
  • World-class Treatment by UK/USA trained Doctors in India.
  • Fixation of appointment with Chief Doctors on top priority prior to arrival
  • Arranging consultations with doctors
  • Assisting in planning treatment /check up with appointment fixing and travel scheduling.
  • No waiting time for surgical procedures
  • Packages offered only for Medical Treatment till discharge from hospital.
  • Coordinating all appointments
  • Nurses/Guide.
  • Online assistance to the Patients.

An article in the Daily Mail decries the serious shortage of qualified doctors willing to work outside business hours in Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS):

The huge extent to which the NHS needs foreign doctors to treat patients out of hours is revealed today.

A third of primary care trusts are flying in GPs from as far away as Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland because of a shortage of doctors in Britain willing to work in the evenings and at weekends.

The stand-ins earn up to £100 an hour, and one trust paid Polish and German doctors a total of £267,000 in a year, a Daily Mail investigation has found.

It raises fresh concerns that British patients are being treated by exhausted doctors without a perfect command of English.

Without enough British doctors, more foreign doctors are being imported by "primary care trusts" -- which appear to be the first stop for health care through the NHS, hiring primary care physicians, referring patients to specialists, and contracting for privately owned health-care facilities. These doctors are often less qualified than their British counterparts -- and they make fatal mistakes:

Daniel Ubani had just three hours sleep after travelling from Germany before he went on duty in Cambridgeshire.

The Nigerian-born doctor injected 70-year-old kidney patient David Gray with ten times the maximum recommended dose of morphine, and an 86-year-old woman died of a heart attack after Ubani failed to send her to hospital.

It is extremely difficult to sue either these doctors or the NHS itself, because they are all considered government agencies. Oddly, however, Indian hospitals have no problem hiring highly qualified UK doctors. Perhaps it has something to do with payscales and workloads.

This month, the first ever medical tourism convention will be held in Toronto, Canada. The theme? India, of course:

This is a first of its kind conference to be held in Canada. It will provide an opportunity for the Indian Health Care industry, academics, industry researchers, market and industry analysts, government officials and policy makers, to present their services and exchange ideas and develop a new vision for the future of the Medical Tourism industry. Contributions to the progress of developing new ideas to stimulate this vital industry and provide new approaches to regulating are welcome.

850,000 Canadians are invited to regain their lives, lifestyle and dignity by availing world class medical facilities in India. This exhibition will showcase the variety of world class medical services and facilities available in India and all Canadians tired of waiting in the “System” are encouraged to visit.

The way things are heading, Americans may want to book tickets at this convention as well.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, November 3, 2009, at the time of 5:04 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Medical Tourism - Available Soon for Americans Should ObamaCare Pass!:

» Defensive Plaintiffs from Big Lizards
A "seminar commenter" on a previous post made an extraordinary claim; he wrote: Tort reform is a non starter, not because Dems have no backbone, but because tort is a very small factor in health care cost issues. Unless you... [Read More]

Tracked on January 28, 2010 6:21 PM


The following hissed in response by: Dishman

It's a cost-control thing.

Run the waits up long enough, and people will either seek treatment in another country, or die.

The above hissed in response by: Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2009 2:12 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dick E

To me, the most vexing part of the health insurance/health coverage debate (other than the fact that the Democrats are in control of the process) is the pre-existing condition problem. Dafydd took a stab at this recently. My contribution, sadly, was nothing more than to say why I thought his idea wouldn’t fly.

You may or may not think pre-existing condition coverage is a bigger problem than others, such as cost and expanding coverage. You may think none of these is a significant problem and that our health care system is fine as is. But if we are going to “reform” our health care system -- and lots of people are determined to do so -- I don’t see how we can ignore pre-existing conditions.

Unfortunately, greater minds than mine have been wrestling with this problem for years without result. So what can be done?

One option is the National Health Service approach à la the UK, Canada and our Medicare. Miserable failures all.

Then there’s simply requiring insurance companies to accept all applicants, regardless of health history. I don’t think this can work unless we also do two other things: Force companies to determine premiums without regard to underwriting (i.e. ignore pre-existing conditions) and mandate universal coverage (everyone has to buy health insurance). The former prevents insurance companies from de facto disqualifying pre-existing condition applicants by charging unaffordable premiums. The latter is necessary because the insurance company mandates reduce an important incentive for people to buy coverage: If I can always buy insurance, even after I get sick, why should I buy it now? Too many mandates.

A third possibility is buying consortiums or co-ops. People would apply to the co-op for insurance, and the co-op would pool applicants and negotiate among carriers for the best deal. I have no idea how this would work in practice. One obvious problem is that there are differences among insurance companies and plans beyond price. (Of course, we could eliminate those most of those differences by standardizing coverage packages.) And what happens if you don’t like what the pool negotiates for you? Freedom of choice would seem to be the first casualty here.

Those are three options, none of which I consider satisfactory. The one I find least distasteful is number two. Does anyone have any other plans or ideas to improve on these?

Unless someone comes up with a good way to address pre-existing conditions, any “comprehensive” health care plan will, in my opinion, be worse than our current system. If we can possibly find a way to stop the Democrats, we should enact tort reform and allow interstate health plan sales; when the dust settles after these changes, we can see what else is needed. The trick is to sell this without being the “just say no” party.

The above hissed in response by: Dick E [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 3, 2009 6:54 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved