Medical Tourism – the Next Thing to be Banned for Americans?

medical tour


FUN! for now…

There is a story in the New York Times, a paper of very bad record, about medical tourism.  Many people have written about the trend for sometime, and the Times, as per usual, often comes to “trends” late or takes silly perspectives.  Primarily it fails to entertain the idea that both the American government and foreign governments may start taking a dim view of medical tourism.

As is the case with this article, which describes a man who went to Brussels to get a hip operation for $13,000 complete, when it would have cost him perhaps near $100,000 in the US – which is a true rip-off.  The problem is the Times blames only the manufacturers of the replacements parts for being members of a “cartel” in cahoots with surgeons as in this passage:

As the United States struggles to rein in its growing $2.7 trillion health care bill, the cost of medical devices like joint implants, pacemakers and artificial urinary valves offers a cautionary tale. Like many medical products or procedures, they cost far more in the United States than in many other developed countries.

Makers of artificial implants — the biggest single cost of most joint replacement surgeries — have proved particularly adept at commanding inflated prices, according to health economists. Multiple intermediaries then mark up the charges. While Mr. Shopenn was offered an implant in the United States for $13,000, many privately insured patients are billed two to nearly three times that amount.

An artificial hip, however, costs only about $350 to manufacture in the United States, according to Dr. Blair Rhode, an orthopedist and entrepreneur whose company is developing generic implants. In Asia, it costs about $150, though some quality control issues could arise there, he said.

So why are implant list prices so high, and rising by more than 5 percent a year? In the United States, nearly all hip and knee implants — sterilized pieces of tooled metal, plastic or ceramics — are made by five companies, which some economists describe as a cartel. Manufacturers tweak old models and patent the changes as new products, with ever-bigger price tags. {snip} Though the five companies make similar models, each cultivates intense brand loyalty through financial ties to surgeons and the use of a different tool kit and operating system for the installation of its products; orthopedists typically stay with the system they learned on.

They do promote the idea that the state helps these countries control health costs – in ways that they fail to mention will never happen in the US, as in:

While most Belgian physicians and hospitals are in business for themselves, the government sets pricing and limits profits. Hospitals get a fixed daily rate and surgeons receive a fee for each surgery, which are negotiated each year between national medical groups and the state. While doctors may charge more than the rate, few do so because most patients would refuse to pay it, said Mr. Boussauw, the hospital administrator.

In theory, this is how a free market would work – in the most basic terms, people can set whatever price they want for their product or service, and people will either agree to pay it or not.  Competitors will compete on both price and service, or value benefits. So while some people will choose the no-frills cheaper package (Brussels system is described in the story as having a highly functional medical-focused environment with few if any plush amenities) some people will pay a premium for perks and extras, if not quality. Although the quality of the health care delivered in Brussels, and other countries including some BRIC nations like India, are quite high they are cheap mainly because of subsidies from the government, state price controls, and an overall lower cost and quality of living.

Belgium pays for health care through a mandatory national insurance plan, which requires contributions from employers and workers and pays for 80 percent of each treatment. Except for the poor, patients are generally responsible for the remaining 20 percent of charges, and many get private insurance to cover that portion.

That private insurance may be available on the free market – a fact that the Times neglects to mention – and may be quite affordable.  We don’t have a free market in health care. That is a big problem that many others, very well informed, have discussed at length and you can read about that here, here, and here (this is just one of many examples of someone who does not understand free markets and confuses them with monopolies) – along with numerous other places via a good Bing search (I use Bing because Bing does not report searches to the government as Google does).

There is one thing that no one discusses, or at least I have not found a discussion of it: My fear is that either the American government or the countries that offer reasonable and subsidized (make no mistake, price controls are paid for by the countries’ tax payers – hard working people) will put a stop to medical tourism.  A country may simply start to refuse to treat the flood of Americans who cannot afford to pay US doctors because they will realize their countrymen are subsidizing a wealthy country like America. It may soon stop being profitable and may start costing the taxpayers of these countries a great deal of money, and they will get sick and tired of subsidizing aging American’s health care needs. So they will simply make laws that do not permit hospitals to offer care to Americans. It could happen simply because the global health care market is not a free market. It is  a controlled and subsidized market.

For America’s part, the government could start prohibiting people from seeking healthcare overseas – and follow up with punishments, fines, and ever more taxes on everything from health care premiums to travel restrictions and extra fines and fees for medical tourism. Believe me, they haven’t done it yet because they have not figured out a way…but they will and  I actually think this has a greater chance of happening than the former idea.

The American government will realize that the very people subsidizing the system are starting to leave the system.  Because you see not only are their tax dollars subsidizing free health care for the new majority who will get healthcare for free or at a very low cost – because they are either indigent or simply not bright enough (no matter how much help they get) to obtain demanding, high paying, and high-skill jobs – we subside the system through paying falsely elevated equipment and care rates that come as a result of a controlled marketplace. And of course the very big insurers are in cahoots with the government – you think they are enemies? They are very, very good friends. Talk about a cartel!

You see, the privileged victim wields incredible power and they will eventually have the taxpayer, or the producer, in chains. Not sure what they think will happen then. But, then again, they aren’t very bright, are they?


Light a candle and think about your health tomorrow!

This entry was posted in canary in the coal mine, economic decline, economy, government overreach, immigration, immigration reform, Intelligence, IQ, Libertarians, multiculturalism, Nanny state, New York Times, Obamacare, police state, taxes, the state, the welfare state, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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