In some circles it's called Medical Tourism. It refers to persons living in the United States who cannot afford medical care in their own country, who thus head out to obtain it at a far lower cost in another country.
The latest issue of National Geographic Traveler (May/June 2009) describes what's involved in an article entitled "Medical Tourism Takes Off," pp. 10-14.
For example, one gentleman from Michigan needed surgery for an aortic aneurysm. A local hospital informed him that the cost of repair would be $450,000, thank you very much. He decided to go elsewhere--to India, where the procedure cost $9,000.
Health care costs, says John Rosenthal, author of this article, have gone up 6.5 percent a year since 2000. Many of our citizens cannot afford health care in this country, the so-called "richest country in the world." So, with limited options, they head out to other countries and in some cases combine medical procedures and vacations.
In fact, Rosenthal quotes stats from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions which indicate that about 750,000 Americans headed out to foreign countries for medical procedures in 2007, and "[T]hat number is expected to reach six million by 2010 if health care costs in the U.S. continue to rise at the current rate."
The procedures performed overseas include not only things like aortic aneurysm repair, but dental procedures, cosmetic procedures, hip and knee replacements, and more.
"And the savings are substantial. Hip replacement surgery, which costs as much as $50,000 in the U.S., is just $12,000 in India, including airfare."
The AMA is "agnostic on medical tourism, saying 'it is too early to determine whether the risks outweigh the advantages.'" So, the recommendation is to use "only facilities that have been accredited by international organizations such as the Joint Commission International (JDI) or the International Society for Quality in Health Care."
Not a big problem. There are "more than 230 JCI-accredited facilities in 30 countries..."
A free market has no conscience. It's god is profit. That's not all bad, of course, unless unregulated or poorly regulated and poorly administered, such as our current health care system.
There is something seriously wrong when millions of people from the "world's richest country" have to seek health care overseas because of the daunting costs of health care in the United States.
Health care reform is high on President Obama's agenda. Whether the progressives will be able to pull it off is another story. The medical community has had its way for a long time usually hauling out the hoary old threat of "socialized" medicine. The medical community's lobbyists are working overtime to counter any perceived danger to the current system which lines their pockets at the expense of the people.
Which isn't to say reform is impossible. The hoi polloi need to yell and scream until they are heard and listened to. The hoi polloi need to tell every single member of Congress who opposes a national health care system they are raving hypocrites, sucking at the teat of government-subsidized health care for themselves and their families, while screaming "socialism" at the mention of any reform that would provide similar benefits for the rest of our citizenry.
Maybe health care reform would be a "tea party" worth having.