heart bypass surgery


An excellent article appeared recently in Dallas News that talked about the health care systems in other Western countries and what America can learn from them to resolve its health care woes. Here is the article for a good read…

Tackling the high cost of health care is politically bruising and difficult work around the world. Among developed countries, only the Norwegians rival our level of spending. The French wrestle with rising costs every year. The Canadians are searching for a better model, and have had their eyes on France. But for all their troubles, the French and the Canadians – two bogeymen in the American reform debate – spend much less and live longer than we Americans.

In the last five years, I’ve spent time reporting on health care in 10 other countries to see what they might offer in the way of suggestions to improve the American way of medicine. No one has a perfect system. No one has a permanent solution. But medical spending can be slowed without sacrificing quality. Some do it with government price controls and government doctors, while some do it with government acting as a referee. Neither approach is fatal to medical quality.

The Swiss, the French and the Canadians all use very different approaches to get at the problem, but they get there. And when all else fails, there’s still medical tourism. You can get heart bypass surgery, with a tour of the Taj Mahal, in India for less than 10 percent of the U.S. cost – plus a year’s supply of pharmaceuticals.

I met Carlo Gislimberti, a New Mexico restaurateur, in New Delhi in 2005 while he was waiting for a coronary bypass at the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre. He’d had three heart attacks. He had no health insurance. His Albuquerque hospital wanted $120,000 for the operation.

Escorts did the job for less than $12,000.

“It was an absolutely wonderful experience with wonderful results,” Gislimberti said last week when I called him in Santa Fe.

“There was only one thing – the luxury is not there. But the knowledge, the quality of nursing, it was absolutely beyond belief. … I would still today recommend to all the people in my predicament to go abroad.”

Medical tourism is no longer a quirky answer for the desperate and uninsured. The health-consulting arm of Deloitte estimates 1.6 million Americans will seek medical treatment in another country this year. U.S. health insurers, looking for ways to lower costs, are exploring policies that cover such travel.

Gislimberti, now 64, sold his restaurant and paints for a living. His heart ailments qualified him for disability under Social Security, and last year he was accepted under Medicare. He had a pacemaker installed by his Albuquerque hospital in an operation last May.

One thing he learned: “If you have insurance, this country is the greatest. But it you don’t have insurance, this is a Third World country.”

Another lesson: Price competition is coming. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute consulting group last fall found that Americans pay 50 percent to 60 percent higher charges for pharmaceuticals, health insurance overhead and physician services than anyone else in the world. That could make medical tourism irresistible, and a competitive risk to the U.S. medical establishment.

Switzerland is intriguing because employers have gotten out of the insurance business. The Swiss government mandates personal health insurance. Everyone shops among scores of insurance companies to buy a policy. The insurers must offer everyone a basic policy and can’t exclude anyone. The government offers subsidies to people who can’t afford a policy, and fines people who don’t get one.

Swiss medical fees are set in annual negotiations between health care providers and insurers that must win the approval of the canton parliament. (Insurers and hospital chains do the same thing here, but those negotiations are seldom among equals and don’t have a referee like the canton parliament.)

One result of the Swiss approach is that consumers gravitate toward high-deductible policies – insurance that costs less per month, but takes more out of your wallet when you see a doctor. And because they’re paying for it, the Swiss are more cost-conscious health consumers. The Swiss spend about a third less than Americans for medical care.

France and Canada both have national health insurance. In France, this is like Medicare for all. There’s a gap of 30 percent to 40 percent between what the government insurance covers and what health care costs, so a lively market exists for private, supplemental insurance policies.

Doctors can choose compensation under a government schedule revised every year, or they can charge what they like – and forgo a government pension.

Canadians may, famously, wait for nonurgent treatments and surgeries. But they’re quicker to rally around a public health issue like obesity, because the insurance mechanism is part of the provincial government.

“Our wait lists are coming down, but they’re still substantially more than yours,” said Canadian health economist Steven Lewis. “But your system is twice as expensive. It doesn’t insure 45 million people, it underinsures another 45 million, and overall you have a less healthy population. Is that worth sustaining?”

In the current health care debate in Washington, no one argues that we should throw out the U.S. health care model for an import. There are models closer to home – like Temple’s Scott & White – worth emulating.

But there are plenty of places that spend less for equal or better care. It can be done.

By Jim Landers

Further reading:
Medical tourism
Domestic medical tourism
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Healthbase has helped an uninsured American patient get double hip resurfacing surgeries in India. The high cost of Birmingham hip resurfacing surgery in the United States plus the lack of expertise in this procedure in the country continues to drive scores of Americans to India.

Nov. 21, 2008, Boston, MA. Healthbase Online Inc., an award-winning medical tourism facilitator based in Boston, Massachusetts, helps an Arizona-based former ballet dancer treat her hip osteoarthritis in India. 53-year old Katharine Frey who had arthritis in both her hips traveled to Apollo Hospitals, Chennai to have her hips resurfaced and availed of the 85% discount on the cost of the surgery.

“I have appreciated everything we have experienced and received at the Apollo Hospitals . Everyone has been very kind, supportive and helpful,” says Katharine after her hip resurfacing surgery last winter. She was so happy with the quality of care she received at her overseas hospital that she went back a few months later to have her second hip resurfaced.

Being uninsured, the $60,000 required to have a single hip resurfaced in the US seemed out of reach for Katharine. This led her into researching her other option – surgery overseas – and contacting Healthbase who coordinated both her surgeries in India for $8,000 each. The price included doctor’s fees, physical therapy and a week in the hospital.

According to Saroja Mohanasundaram, CEO of Healthbase , “Our clients prefer going abroad for Birmingham hip resurfacing because it is a fairly new procedure in the US but has been in use, say, in India, for many years. Being a major procedure it demands years of practice on the surgeon’s part to gain proficiency. The fact that Katharine went back to have her other hip resurfaced in India speaks volumes about the high level of satisfaction with our service and that of our partner hospitals and surgeons.”

Katharine Frey taking off on a paragliding flight just weeks after her hip resurfaicng surgery in India
Katharine Frey taking off on a paragliding flight just weeks after her hip resurfacing surgery in India

Katharine returned to work merely two and a half weeks post operation and to teaching ballet twenty days post operation. Katharine actively participates in swimming, yoga, hiking, paragliding, and cross-country road trips. “She has no pain in her hips and is moving and functioning like a normal human. I am so grateful and am enjoying watching Katharine return to life,” remarks Scott Martin, Katharine’s husband.

Katharine was operated upon by Dr. Vijay Bose and his team. Dr. Bose, a specialist in Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, Joint Replacement and Sports Medicine, has over a thousand BHR surgeries under his belt.
“Beyond the cost savings, the attention given was remarkable. Dr. Bose and his qualified staff will always be remembered for this,” adds Katharine.

Impressed by the high quality of care in India, even Scott, who accompanied Katharine to India addressed some of his periodontal issues through dental scaling and crowns at Apollo Hospitals while Katharine recuperated after her second Birmingham hip resurfacing surgery.

“It has been a positive life changing process for both of us. Thank you, Healthbase, for being so receptive, supportive and professional,” acknowledge Katharine and Scott.

Healthbase connects patients from across the globe to health care facilities in India, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines, Turkey, Belgium, Hungary, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Mexico and United States. Healthbase has over 45 providers on its network.

About Healthbase Online Inc.:

Healthbase, an award-winning Boston-based medical tourism and dental tourism facilitator, is a one-stop source for global medical and dental choices, connecting patients to leading healthcare providers around the world. Healthbase coordinates over 200 procedures in various categories like orthopedic, spinal , cardiac, bariatric, urology , oncology , dental , cosmetic and general surgery . Some of the common procedures offered are Birmingham hip resurfacing , total hip replacement , knee replacement , ACL repair , rotator cuff surgery , spinal fusion , spinal disk replacement, heart bypass surgery , lap band , gastric bypass , cancer treatment , liposuction, dental implants, crowns, bridges, etc. for a fraction of the cost in the US with equal or superior outcomes. Healthbase’s partner healthcare facilities are located in Thailand, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, Turkey, Belgium, Hungary, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Mexico and USA, and are expanding to Canada, UK, Jordan, Taiwan, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, El Salvador and Guatemala. To ensure that patients receive the best care possible, Healthbase works mainly with hospitals that have international accreditations like JCI, JCAHO and ISO. Healthbase caters to the needs of individual consumers, self-funded businesses, insurance carriers, benefit consultants, insurance agents, and third party administrators seeking affordable medical travel and dental travel options. To learn more, call 1-888-691-4584, email info.hb @ healthbase.com or visit http://www.healthbase.com.

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