Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Going Outside the US for Healthcare

We hear about people going out of the US to get prostate treatment, heart bypass and joint replacements -- and getting their US insurance companies to pay.

Now the City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, had an employee who was in Thailand anyway get a colonoscopy there. A colonoscopy locally costs $3,500. In Thailand, it is $700. Quality of care was good, the employee reports.

The City is now considering sending employees who need angioplasty surgery to Thailand. The procedure costs "up to $50,000" in the US and $15,000 in Thailand. A report in The State newspaper says it will save the City money to pay for the employee to go to Thailand, have the procedure, spend a few days in Thailand, and return to work.

For most hospital CEOs, marketers and doctors in the US, the issue of their patients choosing to go outside of the US for treatment isn't on their memo pads. Most see it as an aberration, something that won't have an impact on their patient base. Some hospitals, however, are setting up operations overseas where the costs are lower for their patients and others who wish to leave the US for treatment.

Some treatments, like the high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) procedure for prostate cancer, are now in clinical trials in the US, but promising enough that US physicians are taking their patients abroad, to Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas, for the $25,000 treatment. This is an outpatient procedure, walk in and walk out.

Let me know if you have had experience in getting treatment outside of the US. Tell us about it.