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The Almighty Buck

India Woos Medical Tourists 479

aspelling writes "It's not only quality hardware and software that can be done in India for a fraction of the cost. BBC reports that India has a generation of world class doctors capable of doing joint replacement, heart, neuro and cancer surgery at their state-of-the-art facilities. Don't be surprised when your physician prescribes you a trip to Bombay. Indian officials are working hard with HMOs around the world to make this dream come true."
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India Woos Medical Tourists

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  • HMO? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:10AM (#8285011)
    What is an HMO? Isn't it a facet of the American private health care system? There are no HMOs in the country where I live (Canada).
    • Re:HMO? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In short, they're the people who, without having ever seen or met you, decide the course of your medical treatment based upon which is the most cost effective.

      Basically the opposite of a good doctor.
      • What HMO Really is (Score:3, Informative)

        by Poligraf ( 146965 )
        I'd consider your rant to be a typical one for clueless anticorporate types.

        HMO is a desperate (and failing) attempt to control skyrocketing medical costs. Traditional system includes the insurance company and doctors as separate entities with the doctor making any decisions they want and insurance just footing the bill.

        Unfortunately, newer expensive treatments ( http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=96859&cid=828 3 832 ) and general health degradation in the US caused insurance to experience losses.

        S
    • Re:HMO? (Score:5, Funny)

      by shigelojoe ( 590080 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:50AM (#8285134)
      An HMO is kind of like the Black Knight from Monty Python, except that when *you* get both of your arms cut off, *they* say it's only a flesh wound.
    • Re:HMO? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by psicic ( 171000 )
      Hmmmm....have to agree....HMOs are really just an American thing.

      The National Health Service in Britain(mentioned in the article) isn't an HMO - it's a...err...national health service.... you know...the idea that people without private health insurance have a right to treament.....

      Mind you, I'm Irish....so what we have doesn't even pass for a health service (HMO, nationalised or otherwise!) - in Ireland you won't be refused entry to a hospital based on your insurance plan...so you have the comfort of exp
      • (Bombay is Mumbai? So is Bombay an archaic usage(like Bangkok is for the capital of Thailand) or is it just an Anglicised version of the word?)

        It's more that Mumbai is the "new" official usage. But I don't know where you got the idea that "Bangkok" is archaic -- it's a quite old usage; it's not what the Thais call it (that's Krungthep, for short) but it's the "official" English name.

    • Re:HMO? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by IANAAC ( 692242 )
      There are no HMOs in the country where I live (Canada).

      Actually, yes there is... it's a big one too. It's the government. They determine where you can/cannot go for your healthcare needs, much like any HMO in the US.

      • Re:HMO? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They determine where you can/cannot go for your healthcare needs, much like any HMO in the US.

        that is so wrong.

        I have a broken leg, I walk into any hospital and they fix it.

        I need treatment for cancer, they send me to one of the hospitals which specialize in oncology, oh and I have a say in which one (an aunt just went through this, she was involved in the decision and what doctors she saw.)

        The "waiting lists" that the US Republicans like to spout aren't nearly as draconian as they would have you bel

  • Hrmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by acehole ( 174372 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:12AM (#8285017) Homepage
    Free curry on your 3rd bypass.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    which essentially means that people in developed countries just so much overpaid for what they do it is unbelievable!

    a cruel joke of the capitalist economy, as our socialist friends would say...

    • by puck01 ( 207782 ) * on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:07AM (#8285184)
      Ya, I work 80 hours a week (legally that is, in reality I work much more than that but I'm technically limited to 80 hours per week), owe twice as much in student loans as the cost of my condo (condo about $82,000, you do the math) and make 40,000 a year. Sure I'm a resisdent still, but as a general practitioner I'll still work at least 60 hours a week, and oh ya, by the way, I won't be finished with training until I'm 30. I've sacrificed many of my hobbies and pleasures in life to do this. I spend much of my spare time reading to keep up with the lately studies. Do I complain about this? NO. Absolutely not, this is what I choose to do, but comments like this really get on my nerves.

      Also, I have to wonder what the legal environment is like in India? How much do these docs pay for legal insurance. Since some surgeons in the US can pay over 100,000/yr in insurance, I would suspect that might account for much of the cost.
      • by Compuser ( 14899 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @12:59PM (#8286978)
        Ok, how is this: I am physics graduate student,
        won't get PhD until I am 29 an until then I earn
        less than 20K a year while working basically
        every waking moment (about 14 hrs a day/ 7 days a
        week). I will then be a postdoc for a few years
        earning about 40K and then hopefully a professor
        earning 70K or so. If all doctors worked as much as
        I do and had pay schedules as low I do we'd have
        more or less affordable healthcare.
      • by occamboy ( 583175 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @02:38PM (#8287809)
        The US spends roughly 15% of GDP on healthcare, while the rest of the first world spends roughly 10%. Docs in the US get paid roughly twice what their counterparts are paid in the rest of the first world. The average doc in the US makes $150k+ per year - after malpractice premiums. In general, malpractice is not a big expense, except for OBs and neurosurgeons.

        For this, we get medical outcomes that are not demonstrably better than those in other first world countries. In fact, our outcomes are probably worse: in terms of life expectancy, we're 48th in the world, roughly the same as Cuba. That's sad, considering that our per capita healthcare spending is greater than Cuba's entire per-capita GDP.
    • Most people working in health care are underpaid(or at least not overpaid). All the lawyers working for the HMOs and those out to sue doctors are doing just fine. Nothing capitalist about that.
    • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) *

      Speaking of costs and capitalism, there have been some nasty spats between India and US pharmaceuticals companies if I recall correctly. It's not difficult to recreate a drug - the only protection the US companies have is patent law. India baulked at the costs that were demanded, weighed up the choice of letting people die or violating copyright and (good for them) started knocking off the drugs themselves.

      What I'm interested in here however is, should more spats happen, will this weaken the pressure th
  • Not to knock the healing hands in India, but I just can't snicker at the thought of my HMO telling me that they've outsourced my hip replacement to the cousin of the guy who replaced my job as a programmer.
    • The only issue I have with India as a "doctors" country is the poor record they have on transplants. I've read (sorry don't remember the source, try google), that many poor Indians are willing to sell their (or even their children's) kidney's just to get some cash. And the article went on about how some of the poor and unimportant people that no-one would miss are used as cheap and reliable sources of hearts and liver for transplants.

      So yes, joint operations are fine, I'd be vary of the ethical consequence
  • by epicstruggle ( 311178 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:15AM (#8285023)
    I hate to admit it, but they do have a point. Savings can be had by lower paying doctors, nurses, facility costs, you also get to eliminate malpractice suits. Real savings with the last one. Your real cost will be to ship the patient back and forth (around $800 to $1200).

    Hmm, Im torn between feeling bad for doctors/nurses, and happy that there will be less need for lawyers.

    later,
    epic
    • by user no. 590291 ( 590291 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:26AM (#8285049)
      Less need for lawyers? The first time someone is maimed or dies under the knife when he was in India at the insistence of his/her HMO rather than in a stateside medical facility, there will be a lawsuit of SCO proportions against the HMO. Except the patient (or his/her heirs) have a good chance of winning.

      (While I'm sure HMO's will require signing of a waiver, I doubt the waiver will hold up when push comes to shove. IANAL, IANAD, and all that.)

      • Yes less need for lawyers, why? Because HMO's will offer you a plan stating that all non-emergency surgeries will be performed outside the US. IANAL, but it seems that if you agree to go out of the country for surgeries in exchange for lower cost health care, than all malpractice lawsuits should/would be handled in India. LOL, it just came to mind that we would also be outsourcing our lawyers to india.

        later,
        epic
        • Heh :). Unless the HMO becomes an India corporation, too, the lawsuits will be handled in the U.S. And you can be the insurance industry isn't going to let the profits go from Hartford to Bangalore. So the principals, if not the operation, remain stateside, and are sued right at home.
    • "you also get to eliminate malpractice suits. Real savings with the last one."

      Ok, you go first. Hope nothing goes wrong, since you just said you'd have no recourse. :)
    • Boy, the process just accelerates every day, doesn't it?

      Given that large multinational companies are now figuring out how to outsource pretty much everything that Americans make a middle-class living at... How does a geek plan for the future?

      Not to be Mr. Negative-Pants, but the future appears to be one where a thin layer of prosperity on the level of a Pakistani bricklayer is smeared around the globe.

      So... how do we plan for this? Any creative ideas out there?
  • by viniosity ( 592905 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:20AM (#8285037) Homepage Journal
    After seeing a number of doctors in SF regarding a kidney stone that just would not pass (over 1 month with the damn thing!), I had the fortune of being in Bombay. On a particularly hard day our local rep took me to see a doctor. While I wouldn't want to expose anyone to the conditions of this particular 'hospital', the doctor was very nice and actually took the time to explain what he was going to prescribe and what it would do. Within 24 hours my stone passed.

    This is in stark contrast to the jerk who 'helped' me in SF. "Yeah, drink a lot of water. That'll be $400"

    • by rsidd ( 6328 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#8285872)
      I'm an Indian, so I know how good medical care is. Right now I'm in the US, but believe me, if I had a medical problem, I'd get it treated in India, and not just for cost reasons. They know their stuff and they don't treat their patients like idiots. (It's also true that I know who the good doctors are in India, and I don't know any here.) My relatives in Europe do the same: the alternative is go through the public-healthcare lottery in Europe (get assigned a doctor who may be good or may be awful), or pay through your nose for private healthcare.
  • ObSimpsons (Score:5, Funny)

    by eap ( 91469 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:25AM (#8285046) Journal
    It didn't work so well for my friend Mr. McGregg, with a leg for an arm, and an arm for a leg.
  • by cabazorro ( 601004 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:27AM (#8285050) Journal
    So you go to Bombay to get a kidney
    removed and they remove the healthy one.
    Can you sue them for malpractice a-la US?
    I'm afraid not.
    I read that some HMO's are sending xrays
    and cat-scans to india for diagnosis via
    internet.

    • Typical. You're more worried about who you'd be able to sue than the fact that you'd be left without a healthy kidney.

      Is it any wonder lawyers piss all over everyone in the US when there are people like you who worry more about litigation rights than their own health?
      • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:47AM (#8285396) Journal
        >>Typical. You're more worried about who you'd be able to sue than the fact that you'd be left without a healthy kidney.

        It's called "thinking ahead," numbskull! Choosing medical care is a cost/benefit/risk assessment. A botched kidney transplant isn't like a bad haircut which corrects itself after a time. Dialysis isn't free (in terms of money and time -- taking approximately half a day, twice a week) and there are substantial medical complications one can expect (including stoke, liver damage, infection, hemmorhage, toxemia, death) from long-term dialysis. If medical negligence causes harm (as per this example), the patient should not have to suffer the financial burden of these injuries as well. Therefore, it's appropriate to look beyond the surgery itself and weigh the risks of a poor outcome -- in the event of negligence, will the patient be able to seek legal recourse?

        But I suppose, in your eyes, it would be more noble for the person to just say "well, that's that... I'll go die now" and quietly go away?
        • If the original poster had talked about putting things right if things go wrong then perhaps I wouldn't have posted. But seeing as he worded his post to say "Who can I sue?" I responded accordingly.

          Of course medical procedures don't always go perfectly and of course doctors sometimes make mistakes: they are human too, you know. But I'm sure that's an issue that's come up once or twice in the past before, and I'm equally sure that if your health insurer didn't underwrite the cost of restitution if things we
  • After spending any time in India (for medical treatment especially), this is a must.
  • In the West... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gustgr ( 695173 ) <rondina@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:27AM (#8285055) Homepage
    all parents tell they children that when they'll grow up they'll be doctors. Of course they say that thinking about how a doctor can make and not on how important and honorable (at least it was) to be a doctor.

    Several Med. freshman are not worried about saving lives and helping people, just to get out of the hospital with a Mercedez in the way to their house in the beach. Sometime they say that it is expensive because they had to study for 10 years to be a doctor ... give me a break ... Some people study during all their lifes and don't make the money some surgeons make in a couple of days.

    Some concepts must be reviwed.
    • Re:In the West... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by niko9 ( 315647 ) * on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:46AM (#8285117)
      Not everyone who goes to medical school is in it for the money. Are there misguided fools who only dream of making quick cash? Sure there are, but you'll find that in any field.

      I have been researching a few medical schools as of late, because I wan't to get my DO (doctor of osteopathy) which is the same as an MD.

      I hear there has been a shift in the last 10 to 20 years as far as what medical schools are looking for from applicants. They want people who know exactly why they want to be physicians.

      I know several fellow paramedics who have just been accepted into medical school with average MCAT scores and are over the of 25.

      They understand that these individuals (not just medics, but nurses, EMT's, physican assistants, and people with MBA's who have something to do with medicine) know why they are going to saccrifice their time and effort.

      And there are plenty of doctors that I know that don't make that much money. A few general practitioners who work poor urban areas. They do see some patients for free; the equivalent of pro bono work I guess.

      As far as medicine being expensive in the West, there are alot more factors contributing to the expenses than a physician's salary.


      • As far as medicine being expensive in the West, there are alot more factors contributing to the expenses than a physician's salary.

        Can I second that? I'm an MD and work over 100 hours a week with some of the sickest patients (peds heme/onc) and get about 36 grand. Granted I'm still in residency, but I was thinking yesterday when putting in orders for meds after about 34 hours of trying to stay focused that that's a whole lot of responsiblity to have when you're that tired and that underpaid.
        • Re:In the West... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nomadic ( 141991 )
          Blame the AMA. They've been trying to keep the number of doctors down for years to keep salaries up. It's a shame, too, I think most doctors in your situation would prefer to make less money if it meant they could, you know, sleep sometimes.
    • Re:In the West... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cipster ( 623378 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:46AM (#8285122)
      I don't think this is a uniquely western problem. I have several Indian and Asian friends and the pressure to become a doctor is even higher there.
      Heck a friend of mine has a PhD and works as a clinical psychologist yet his Indian parents still lament about how he should have become a "Real Doctor".
    • Of course they say that thinking about how a doctor can make and not on how important and honorable (at least it was) to be a doctor.

      I don't think that's it, there's also a great deal of prestige that comes with being a doctor. "My son the doctor" sounds better to them than "my son the investment banker", even though the latter might be making a lot more.
  • A few questions... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by czcxmag ( 752690 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:33AM (#8285075)
    If you needed open heart surgery or a liver transplant, would you still go to India to do it because "it costs less money"?

    Are doctors in India "certified" by the government? do they get inspected regularly for standards of practice?

    I don't want to bash Indian doctors or criticise anyone's decision to valuate medical work purely based on its cost; I just feel the readers should be informed of the potential risks associated with getting major treatments done in other countries just because of financial reasons.

    What if I pick a bad doctor and he messes me up or whatever? Who can I sue? In all likelihood hed be gone after I left.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The choice should be left to the user and not the government.

      Compulsory certification adds costs to the process and creates a monopoly.

      • While the intentions are/were definitely laudable, in US the numbers of doctors and their salaries are kept artificially low by the medical association.
      • Requiring a doctor's prescription for medicine, adds so much more cost for even routine ailments. I know when I have throat infection and I also know what antibiotic to take for it. Instead of buying the medicine direc
      • A typical MD has had 4 years of college (most MDs have a GPA >3.5 so there's college and then there's college)

        4 "years" of Med school (typically 2-3x the work load of what most colleges will limit students)

        3-6 "years" of residency (again working 80-130 hrs/week - one-two days off a month so it's equivalent to 10-15 years job experience)

        Most surgeons I know work 80 hours/week(think of it as 2 jobs) and are on beeper call 24/7 to their patients, except on rare ocasions.

    • by r.muk ( 96998 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:28AM (#8285295)
      "What if I pick a bad doctor and he messes me up"

      In general the average India surgeon operates on many more patients than the US surgeon. It's simple, there are just that many more people in India, and far fewer surgeons. So the level of experience for common procedures is higher in India than in the US. If a medical procedure calls for a cyclotron and a super-computer - the Western countries are where THAT can be done. But a heart bypass - it's done routinely and successfully all the time.

      I live in India. My daughter's life has once been saved by the India public (read free) health system. So I'm prejudiced in its favour.

      Of course you can get excellent (if expensive) medical / surgical treatment in the US.

      And of course some India doctors are venal and money-focussed.

      But don't dismiss India doctors and India hospitals as a whole. On the whole they are very very good. And they are about as likely to skip legal consequences (if any) as a US doctor or hospital. Note - the judicial system in India does NOT have jury trials. So no little old ladies get awarded a hundred million when their nose jobs go awry. But there is adequate enforcement of accountability in medical practice.

      . . .

      • by metlin ( 258108 )
        Yeah, but you miss the very concept of reservation.

        Indian schools have a category for people who have been supposedly been deprived of the facilities owing to their caste in the past. Hence there is the concept of reservation -- one where you are admitted if you belong to a supposedly lower caste merely because in the past your ancestors were discriminated against.

        These are called Scheduled Castes & Tribes and other backward communities.

        Now, tonnes of people in medical schools have far less than what
  • Just yesterday a friend of mine with an degree in economics was talking about the push in that field to move much of the work offshore.

    This applies to any profession - there is no "safe" field. Look at law - despite what television tells you, most people with law degrees aren't engaging in clever courtroom rhetoric all day, or even at all, but doing "back office" stuff. This, too, can be offshored in time.

    I'm not saying that this is a good or a bad thing, or that I have any answers, but it *is* obvious that saying "just get a new career in accounting/law/marketing/whatever!" is naive because there is no strictly "safe" field to start with, and never will be.
    • by ChaoticChaos ( 603248 ) * <l3sr-v4cf@@@spamex...com> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:49AM (#8285130)
      "I'm not saying that this is a good or a bad thing"

      Please. I'll say it for you - this is a very bad thing. I saw an economist on Lou Dobb's Friday program saying that with all the Tech and Services jobs going overseas, "...if our future isn't in Tech and Services, I don't know what it is in".

      Agreed.

      If these trade agreements aren't revisited and revisited damn soon, it IS going to plunge the company into a serious recession or depression. We're shipping an ungodly amount of our jobs, wealth, and future everywhere else but the USA.

      I'm sure it's easy for all of these other countries to have grossly better wages when they are: barely developed, have no labor laws, no environmental laws, etc.

      Kerry for President! Bush isn't doing a damn thing about it and his chief economic adviser things offshoring is a wonderful thing!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    90% of the physical products you buy will be built in China, and possibly designed there too.

    90% of the services you use will be provided by India.

    It's ironic that the West leads in one main field, namely agriculture, which should have been outsourced a long time ago were it not for the farming lobbies.

    There is no moral to this story except that everything you use and buy - except food - will get cheaper and cheaper.
    • "There is no moral to this story except that everything you use and buy - except food - will get cheaper and cheaper."

      I agree with your percentages and that's the conclusion you draw from all of that? Wouldn't the primary point be that if 90% of the physical products come from China and 90% of the services comes from India,,, uhhhhh,,, what is everyone doing for employment in the USA??????????????

      It doesn't matter how cheap goods and services are, if you're out of work, you can't afford anything.
    • There is no moral to this story except that everything you use and buy - except food - will get cheaper and cheaper.

      Actually, the moral seems to be government subsidies work.
  • The staff at my family doctor's office has already been replaced by immigrants from India! I guess that saves me a lot of money on a plane ticket! Wait a minute...
  • Overpaid doctors (Score:5, Interesting)

    by otter42 ( 190544 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:50AM (#8285135) Homepage Journal
    I personally welcome this. Maybe it's because of the bad taste left in my mouth by seeing the local orthodontist brag about how he only worked a couple hours a week, right before he jumped into his multi-million dollar Mitsubishi turbo-prop. My mom just paid several thousand dollars to have a root canal/tooth cap.

    Perhaps it's not the best bet for open heart, but for some of the more insanely priced operations like that I think it make senses.
    • Maybe it's because of the bad taste left in my mouth by seeing the local orthodontist

      If you had a bad taste in your mouth after seeing the orthodontist, it makes me wonder what else went on besides dentistry while you were under the anesthesia.

  • From the article...

    Contrary to the claims of the council, Dr Baru believes there will be no trickle down of money to the impoverished public health system, which currently receives just 0.9% of India's gross domestic product. The MTC's plans may well benefit the doctors and patients involved, but it is currently unclear how a country that still suffers from malaria and TB will reap the rewards of a new wave of medical tourists coming to India.

    India has a long way to go before Americans are going to acc

  • No way... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:52AM (#8285143) Journal
    There is no way in hell that any HMO or insurance company should ever be allowed to tell a patient "we're gonna fly you half way around the world for this surgery". The HMO's are horrible as it is. They get doctors in their network and supply a doctors practice with nearly all his patients. Then they tell the doctor if any surgery, or very expensive treatment has to be performed, they must first call the HMO for approval first. Guess who makes the approval? Not a doctor at the HMO but a buisness manager. They even have incentives at HMO's to provide bonuses for those buisness managers that keep costs the lowest, and they fire the ones who spends more. If the doctor prescribes the treatment anyways, they can get dropped from the HMO and lose all the patients the insurance company provided.

    Laws need to be passed to protect the people. These insurance companies are evil. We would be better off with a state run health insurance system than the hyena's that currently run the insurance companies.

    • Re:No way... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by martinX ( 672498 )
      They won't tell you thay you have to to go, they'll offer you a choice. Something like : "Go on a long waiting list (read: permanent waiting list) for a cheap doctor in the US, or have it done now in India." That way, the choice is yours.
    • In a way I would welcome this. It may just provide enough of a public outcry that it will prompt real health system reform.
  • Better solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse ( 527527 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @08:55AM (#8285152) Homepage
    This is more a problem of OUR system, than anything better about theirs. I've got a cheaper solution: Build a Cruise-Ship/Hospital and park it 4+ miles offshore, offer first class medical help without all the US bullshit... you could cruise up and down the shore and hit more locations.
  • by xmpcray ( 636203 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:03AM (#8285173)
    My mother went through angioplasty at the Escorts Heart Research Institute (New Delhi, India, http://www.ehirc.com/). Not only did the operation go smoothly, the total cost of the whole procedure (including stay, doctor's fee, consultations, actual procedure, angiography etc) came to under $4000. Out of this $2000 was for the medicated stent used, which is imported from the US.

    (PS: This particular hospital performs over 20 angioplasties and around 8 bypass surgeries daily)
  • by Kr3m3Puff ( 413047 ) * <`moc.ylleknostik' `ta' `em'> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:03AM (#8285174) Homepage Journal
    Do I need to point out Bombay is called Mumbai? Sort of a Instanbul/Constantinople thing.

    See this page [geocities.com] for information.
  • My goodness, sooner or later the whole world will end up in india! theres short term bonuses to be had at the moment, as its a poorer country, but surely if this keeps happening they'll eventually be as rich as the USA because of the amount of work and they'll want to outsource to here, as it'll be cheaper! ...maybe ;)
    • "...but surely if this keeps happening they'll eventually be as rich as the USA"

      Uhhhhhhhh,,,, if this keeps happening, they'll have the USA's riches. We will have sent all of our capitol and future overseas.
    • For a relatively poor country they have a pretty decent education system; that's the key. Here in the U.S., the whole notion of broad public education has been under assault for the last couple of decades.
  • Medical Tourists (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rhinobird ( 151521 )
    Medical Tourists.
    It's official, we live in a wierd science fictional dystopian society. "Medical tourists", It sounds like a term akin to "Organ Leggers" from Niven's Known Space. Go back, oh, 20 years and speak the term "Medical Tourist" and people wouldv'e given you blank stares. Not to long from now they will say, "Had my hip done in India, and my plastic surgery in Mexico."

    Since we live in a sci-fi world, I can't wait to get fitted for my one piece jumpsuit, and eating my soma infused soylent big br
  • by pklong ( 323451 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:18AM (#8285243) Homepage Journal
    People are already being shipped abroad (not to india, but france the netherlands etc.) in Britain for treatment because the NHS cannot cope with the number of patients on the waiting lists. Also some are travelling to countries like Poland for cheap cosmetic surgery.

    Operations can and do go wrong and its not much good if your surgion is half way around the world when you get rushed into hospital. Also hospitals do plan for readmittance, which obviously they cannot do unless you are treated by them.

    Also I'm sure I don't need to spell out the problems that will be encountered if the patient needs ongoing treatment.

    In the UK when private operations go wrong the patient often gets dumped on the National Health Service.

    P.S. If you want my opinion, the US could do a lot worse than get itself a National Health Service. Access to healthcare should not be based on the ability to pay or what is covered on your insurance policy (if you can afford one.)
  • Cost origins? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Epistax ( 544591 ) <epistax@gm a i l . c om> on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:30AM (#8285310) Journal
    I have a question that may look like a troll, but I'd like some real thoughts. I assume that hospital visits, operations, etc cost so much because of how much the hospitals must pay for their equipment. So, are there any ideas why hospital equipment costs so much? I thought I heard MRI's run in the hundreds of thousands. Heck, Maine has a mobile MRI bus.
    But even with this taken into consideration, hospital visits that don't touch any expensive machines are still very expensive. Is this to lower the cost of visits that do use expensive equipment? I still think this is explanation is on shaky ground as a $500,000 MRI might be used several thousand times. Does it really cost that much more for upkeep?

    Thanks for any info on this matter. It just doesn't seem correct.
    • Drugs are tremendously expensive, and doctors (and nurses and other medical personnel) make healthy wages, and even small hospitals have a lot of them.

      Plus, many hospitals tend to be for-profit, so they charge as much as they possibly can for even minor procedures.
      • Re:Cost origins? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mritunjai ( 518932 )
        I'm forsaking moderating to reply!

        Background: I'm an Indian, I ride a bike and had a fall sometime ago going at 100+ kmph (ie 80+ MPH).

        The docs at Apollo Hospital (one of the best hospital chains in India) did MRI... total cost for MRI - Rs 6600! (that is around $330 for you).

        And all this after taking into consideration that the MRI equipment is IMPORTED... so they got to pay the shipping and excise/custom duties!!

        So, yeah, US docs are FLEECING you! Wake up.
        • Re:Cost origins? (Score:3, Informative)

          by mritunjai ( 518932 )
          total cost for MRI - Rs 6600! (that is around $330 for you).
          Sorry for wrong figures in USD. The total expenditure in USD for MRI was around $150. This includes cost of medicines used for taking MRI, abdominal MRI and radiologist's fees and doc's fees. PS: CT Scans cost roughly the same too. - Mritunjai
  • by ivi ( 126837 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:32AM (#8285334)
    Which airlines will carry a person,
    who tells them - up-front - that
    they have a heart or other serious
    medical condition?

    (And any insurance may not cover
    them if they don't tell them...)
  • The blame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rongage ( 237813 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @09:51AM (#8285420)

    The real blame if something like this REALLY happens is the doctors themselves...

    Here in Detroit, the costs of medical care are completely outrageous.

    I have had the "opportunity" to have some relatively benign medical proceedures done and the costs of these proceedures was astronomical

    Proceedure 1: Partial removal of ingrown toenail. $778.00
    Proceedure 2: earwax removal: $190.00

    I personally know that the ear-wax removal can be done for $50.00 at a place about an hour away. When you consider that the proceedure consists of the doctor looking in your ear (yep, there is a lot of wax in there), dumping a few drops of a chemical into your ear canal, telling you to lay on your side for 10 minutes (doctor leaves the room at this time to do something else), doctor returns after 10 minutes and squirts a lot of very cold water in your ear canal and the wax is now gone. Total time: 20 minutes.

    It's no wonder that someone would consider it reasonable to send medical work off to india. With the amount of overcharging that is "the way things are done" here, it's only a matter of time before things get shaken up...

    • $50?! (Score:3, Funny)

      by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      I've got ferrets. I'd be happy to let one help you eradicate that ear wax for $40! They seem to go for that sort of thing... They'll also clear out any boogers you have (This would make a great Dave Barry feature...)
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:07AM (#8285523) Journal
    Maybe everyone is scared that the entire western world is being undercut by a bunch of people in some country half-way around the world who will work 10 times harder than any of us, accept a fraction of the wages and probably even do the job better! i dont know about you guys but that thought scares the absolute shit out of me, i reckon its time to join the exploiters at the top of the corporations - you've gotta make the fast buck now and retire or your job is gonna go - its time to kick everyone else off the ladder and scurry up now.
  • by mst76 ( 629405 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:11AM (#8285552)
    Pay lawyer fees and awarded lawsuit damages in Indian Rupees.
  • by HungWeiLo ( 250320 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:20AM (#8285605)
    There are certain pieces of medical equipment which cannot be exported outside of the US. Should doctors in India require these pieces of equipment for some ultramodern procedure, they may not be able to perform such procedures. I suppose this is what law makers and HMO execs would be chirping about when it comes around to this - Don't worry about these "low-level" jobs going offshore, we still have the "high-tech" stuff here to fill the niche!
  • by JavaNPerl ( 70318 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:22AM (#8285620)
    There are US hospitals which send their MRI images electronically to Indian companies which have a 24/7 staff of radiologists to interpret the images and send back the results. It is supposedly cheaper and faster according to a television show I saw, can't recall the show, it may have been on Tech TV. I do believe medical regulatory boards consisting of US doctors are going to make decisions which benefit US doctors. If the outsourcing trend became a major threat, I believe US doctors would employ some type of regulatory action to justify halting the trend. Doctors have had positions of status and wealth in the US for a long time and I don't think they are going to allow that positions slip away without a hard fight.
  • Central America (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jwjcmw ( 552089 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @10:40AM (#8285730)
    My mom goes down to Nicaragua pretty regularly with a civic group...the last trip she had a filling replaced by a dentist down there. She said it was the most pleasant dental visit of her life, and it cost $25...so it's not just India where things are going to be exported to.
  • by frankmu ( 68782 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @11:24AM (#8286054) Homepage
    as a practicing ob/gyn, i hope they outsource some lawyers. preferably to antartica.

    there are some things that can't be outsourced still. trauma surgery and the Burger King Drive-through, for example

  • by Screaming Lunatic ( 526975 ) on Sunday February 15, 2004 @02:23PM (#8287666) Homepage
    I would be very wary about getting surgery in India. My cousin went back to India to get a kidney transplant that his mother was donating. He ended up getting hepatitis during the operation.

    The quality of service from hospital to hospital varies dramatically. And the blood supply is not trustable.

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