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Medical tourism

Medical tourism adopted by businesses; employees sent offshore for cost-saving surgical procedures

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: medical tourism, health care costs, health insurance


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(NewsTarget) As medical costs in the United States continue to rise, more and more employers are sending employees in need of costly surgeries overseas to receive treatment.

A number of U.S. employers that fund their own health insurance plans have started sending their employees to countries such as India and Thailand for operations that can costs tens of thousands of dollars more in the United States.

"The hospitals have a monopoly," says North Carolina-based Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc. benefits director Bonnie Blackley. "They don't care, because where else are patients going to go? Well, we are going to go to India."

Blue Ridge -- just one of several U.S. companies offering "medical tourism" medical plans -- will send one of its employees to a New Delhi hospital next month for a pair of surgeries that will save the company $10,000 over what the procedures would cost in America.

Tens of thousands of Americans have begun traveling overseas for costly medical procedures in recent years, since the savings can be significant. For example, Arthur Milstein, chief physician at HR consulting giant Mercer Health & Benefits, says a coronary bypass surgery at Apollo Hospitals in India costs about $6,500 -- compared to the same surgery that costs an average of $60,400 in California.

Hospital associations in the United States say medical tourism will only make healthcare price problems worse, as those who travel abroad are often the "best-paying" customers who help keep hospitals afloat in the face of rising costs and expensive government regulations.

However, many Americans have no other choice but to travel abroad for surgeries they would otherwise be unable to afford.

"America has the best medical treatment," says Rupak Acharya, founder of a Malibu startup insurance company specializing in medical tourism for major surgeries. "Problem is, much of it is inaccessible."

"This accelerating trend of medical tourism," adds Mike Adams, a medical industry watchdog and critic of conventional medicine, "is the free market's way of overcoming the anti-competitive, monopoly practices that have now become accepted as standard in the U.S. medical industry. Despite the industry's best efforts to exploit patients by limiting their options, smart consumers are realizing that U.S. medical costs are, indeed, a sham, and that they can get the same level of care -- plus a free vacation to Asia -- for a fraction of what they'd spend in the U.S."

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