Medical Tourism: Blaming lawyers for this too!

Defenders of American healthcare say that the United States has the best healthcare in the world. This is not true. We don't have the best healthcare in the world, we have the most expensive healthcare in the world.

Many would argue that dollar for dollar, the United States ranks very near the bottom of the list of all industrialized nations. We get less healthcare for each dollar that we spend.

This sad reality is now hitting the American people as they are increasingly forced to leave the United States to obtain medical and surgical procedures elsewhere.

This tragic state of affairs is known as "medical tourism." This is a polite word for what is going on. Medical tourism is a euphemism for the collapse of our own health care system.

Confronting the the truths about our collapsed healthcare system is still not happening in the United States. So who's better to blame than lawyers?

We know that the legal system remains the last line of defense for grievously injured patients.

Going overseas for cheaper medical treatment, also known as "medical tourism," is one of the fastest-growing trends in modern health care, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While no one officially tracks the phenomenon, the statistics at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, give a sense of how fast it is growing.

Last year, Bumrungrad treated 58,000 American patients, 70 percent of whom traveled there especially for such procedures as hip and knee replacement, angioplasty and prostate removal, said spokesman Ruben Toral.
That was 25 percent more U.S. patients than it treated in 2004, he said, and so far this year, American patients are running 20 percent above last year's figures.
At Bumrungrad Hospital, Toral said, the lower cost of living is a major factor in the savings, but so are differences in how the medical system operates:

Doctors in Thailand pay about $5,000 a year for malpractice insurance, compared with more than $100,000 for some specialties in the United States.
Thai courts will adjudicate malpractice claims, but the largest award ever issued was about $100,000 and the law there doesn't permit damages for pain and suffering.

Another major savings is that Bumrungrad doesn't have to spend much on processing insurance claims, since 75 percent of its patients pay cash.
"You can come to our hospital and pay for major surgery on your credit card," he said. "You could never do that in the states."

Source: Mark Roth, "Surgery abroad an option for those with minimal health coverage," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday, September 10, 2006.

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Posted at 1:03 PM, Sep 25, 2006 in Civil Justice | Health Insurance
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