The outsourcing of surgeries is a growing industry. It is estimated that 45 million Americans are uninsured, and about 500,000 of them went overseas last year for medical treatment. For a while, Asian hospitals have been swarmed by people wanting cosmetic procedures performed for less than half the cost they would incur in the United States. However, the trend for these hospitals is moving towards major procedures, such as heart surgery, knee and back operations.
Many businesses are also looking to benefit from the lower cost of healthcare abroad. This article from the Salt Lake Tribune provides an example of a realtor who traveled to India for a hip resurfacing. The surgery would have cost $28,000 to $40,000 in the United States. Her total bill? $12,000 including her travel and meals for two people for three weeks!
Insurance companies like United Group Programs of Boca Raton, Florida, Blue Shield of California and Health Net of California are already offering lower-cost policies allowing members to seek medical treatment in other countries. A West Virginia lawmaker is planning legislation to allow government employees to travel abroad for medical procedures – and will even offer incentives to go abroad rather than stay in the US for hospital care!
In deciding whether to go abroad for surgery, there are many things that you should consider:
– Unlike surgery in the US, you will not be close to your home or family for the procedure or immediately after.
– The culture and customs of the country you are visiting are likely to be very different from your own.
– Communication with your doctors and nurses may be difficult due to language barriers.
– Follow up care in the US can also be an issue. Is the facility accredited? The Chicago-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has an international arm which has approved about 100 international hospitals. Six countries in Asia have accredited facilities, including five in India and eleven in Singapore.
Here is another article which provides a checklist of things to consider when making your decision.
As with any surgery in the United States, there are risks. Having the surgery outside of the US creates additional risks. If something goes wrong in the United States, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover some, if not all, of your costs. In other countries, medical malpractice claims are rare and large awards of damages are nonexistent. Therefore, you need to do your homework and make sure that you will be receiving the best care possible when you decide to go abroad for surgery.