Wednesday, June 24, 2009

2006 Story Tells of Company That Sends Employees Overseas For Medical Procedures Because, Frankly, It Costs Less

A buddy sent me this article from the American Medical News, which is published by the American Medical Association.  The piece is dated September 28, 2006 and tells of American companies who send their employees overseas for medical procedures because it costs less:

This month, a Blue Ridge (Paper Products Inc. of Canton, N.C.) worker headed to New Delhi to have his gallstones removed and his rotator cuff repaired. Blue Ridge has added overseas hospitals and physicians to its PPO.

For Blue Ridge, it costs less to send an employee 7,800 miles to New Delhi than nine miles to the nearest hospital -- with the quality being equal in the company's eyes. The company estimates the employee's surgeries would cost $100,000 in North Carolina but $20,000 in India.

"We want better than what we can get here," said Darrell Douglas, vice president for human resources. Blue Ridge is even kicking in for travel expenses and paying employees a bonus of up to $10,000 for going to India.

The lure of huge savings is tempting for payers: Blue Ridge testified at the Senate hearing, and one West Virginia state legislator has introduced a bill that would allow state employees to fly first class, with their families, stay at a four-star hotel and receive extra sick days in order to get cheaper care overseas.

United Group Programs, a third-party administrator based in Boca Raton, Fla., outlined why it anticipates a receptive audience for its overseas network. The average cost of a kidney transplant in the United States is around $73,000, versus $28,000 at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Time magazine reported that Bumrungrad last year treated 55,000 American patients -- a 30% increase over 2004.

A coronary artery bypass costs roughly $6,500 at Apollo Hospitals in India, while surveys show the average cost in California is $60,400 -- a difference that is more than enough to make up the travel costs.

Of course, there are concerns with going overseas for a procedure.  Specifically, coordinating care after the procedure between the foreign and domestic doctors.  After that, there are no concerns.  These companies, Blue Ridge and United Group Programs, are confident that care is equal, if not better and don’t seem worry about any disconnect between doctors.

Might I suggest one procedure for the entire country?  It’s free.  It’s called “head from ass removal surgery.”  I doesn’t cost a cent.  Just open your eyes to the rest of the world and know that we’re being screwed out of a quality of life that the rest of the planet takes for granted, all in the name of profit.  I’m all for making money, but not at the expense of me, my family, my neighbors, and my country.  When a company can fly a family to India, put them up, cover expenses, pay for surgery and recovery, and save $60 to $70k, then this country has a big problem. 

The United States comes in at #37 on “The World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems.”  Take a look at some of the countries above us.  I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t heard of some of them.  Yet, there are those telling us that we have the best health care in the world.  Um, actually, the best healthcare in the world is in France.  Ah!  Those dreaded French, with their bread and wine and cheese and cigarettes and art and healthcare.  I find it ironic that Americans spend so much time putting down the French when they’re living happier, healthier lives.  They’re sitting in a sidewalk cafe, enjoying a summer day, while we’re across the street, wheezing insults.

If you don’t mind, I’d like to use a college basketball analogy.  Being #37 might get us into the tournament of 64, but at a low/mid seed and we would get beat in the first round.  As Americans, we should be embarrassed by this fact.  We have been raised to believe in American exceptionalism, that we are special because we are the best.  We’re special alright, short bus special.  We need to stop being so blinded by our greatness and see that the world is passing us by.  Once we open our eyes, we can go back to being a country of “can do!”  How about we get our dignity and confidence back?  Why don’t we start with healthcare?  Let’s get strong and healthy and then believe that we can do anything we set our minds to.  It is possible!  Don’t let them tell you otherwise!  Let’s get healthcare fixed in this country and start believing in ourselves again!

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