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(51,907 posts)
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 03:43 AM Aug 2013

Why medical tourism? Just do the math for a joint replacement


Shopenn, 67, an architectural photographer and avid snowboarder, had been in such pain from arthritis that he could not stand long enough to make coffee, let alone work. He had health insurance, but it would not cover a joint replacement because his degenerative disease was related to an old sports injury, thus considered a pre-existing condition.

Desperate to find an affordable solution, he reached out to a sailing buddy with friends at a medical device manufacturer, which arranged to provide his local hospital with an implant at what was described as the “list price” of $13,000, with no markup. But when the hospital’s finance office estimated that the hospital charges would run another $65,000, not including the surgeon’s fee, he knew he had to think outside the box, and outside the country.

“That was a third of my savings at the time,” Mr. Shopenn said recently from the living room of his condo in Boulder, Colo. “It wasn’t happening.”

“Very leery” of going to a developing country like India or Thailand, which both draw so-called medical tourists, he ultimately chose to have his hip replaced in 2007 at a private hospital outside Brussels for $13,660. That price included not only a hip joint, made by Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab and a round-trip ticket from America.

“We have the most expensive health care in the world, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best,” Mr. Shopenn said. “I’m kind of the poster child for that."
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(15,480 posts)
2. Go to Belgium, pay only 1/10th U.S. costs, at hospital w/lower infection rates
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 06:39 AM
Aug 2013
US manufacturers & "intermediaries" charging $37,000 for device they manufacture for $350; add another $65,000 for hospital PLUS surgeon's fee. Or you could go to a private Belgian hospital and pay only $13,660 for hip joint, all doctors' fees, operating room charges,medicine, hospital room for 5 days, a week in rehab including round-trip airfare from the states. VERY informative article!

You really HAVE to read this very informative article if you or a loved one is considering hip/knee replacement.

Mr. Shopenn’s surgery, which was uneventful, took place on a Tuesday. On Friday he was transferred for a week to the hospital’s rehabilitation unit, where he was taught exercises to perform once he got home.

Twelve days after his arrival, he paid the hospital’s standard price for hip replacements for foreign patients. Six weeks later he saw an orthopedist in Seattle, where he was living at the time, to remove stitches and take a postoperative X-ray. “He said there was no need for further visits, that the hip looked great, to go out and enjoy myself,” Mr. Shopenn said.


(48 posts)
4. Tough Choice
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 08:43 AM
Aug 2013

When I lived in Europe I remember folks were going there for cosmetic surgery. They were getting tummy tucks, breast enhancement etc. because it was very inexpensive compared to other European countries and the US as this article supports. Lots of folks came back with infections and had to get treatment from their regular provider. I think I would rather have something like that done in the US, but if I am paying for it and not insurance . . . ouch!


(3,678 posts)
6. Which begs the question...
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 08:52 AM
Aug 2013
Will Medical Trade Be Included in the EU Trade Deal and the TPP? If Not, Why Not?

The NYT has an article today on the enormous savings available to people who had major surguries performed in Europe rather than the United States. The piece reports that the cost of hip replacement or knee replacement surgery in the United States are more than five times higher than they are in comparable quality facilities in Europe. (The gap would be even larger with facilities in Thailand and India.)

This shows the enormous potential gains from increased medical trade. In effect, our hospitals, doctors, and medical equipment makers benefit from tariffs on the order of 500 percent or more. If the Obama administration really is interesting in promoting growth through trade it would be difficult to imagine a sector with larger potential gains than trade in medical care.
The agreements would focus on setting clear liabiity rules, accreditation systems, and removing obstacles for insurers and government programs that prevent them taking advantage of lower cost medical services in other countries.

If the trade deals do not include major openings on medical trade then it would be a clear example of why these deals are in fact about selective protectionism rather than free trade. Past trade deals have been quite explicitly focused on putting U.S. manufacturing workers in direct competition with the low paid manufacturing workers in developing countries.

Anyone who believes in free trade would want U.S. doctors and other professionals subjected to the same sort of competition.
Otherwise, they really only want to use trade to lower the wages of less educated workers to benefit the the wealthy. (Low wages means cheap help.) It is dishonest to call that policy "free trade."

(from the CEPR: http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/beat-the-press/will-medical-trade-be-included-in-the-eu-trade-deal-and-the-tpp-if-not-why-not)


(31,500 posts)
7. Wow. I had a hip replacement in 2007 and it didn't cost $78,000 plus surgeon's fee--or $13,660.
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 08:57 AM
Aug 2013

It was more in the neighborhood of $35K. Insurance did cover it--but I went to Charlotte (from Chapel Hill with both UNC Hospitals and Duke practically in my backyard). Reason? Nobody locally did the anterior procedure at the time. The surgeon I went to
in Charlotte learned the procedure in Canada--which was developed by a surgeon in California who
first saw a similar procedure in France!

There are, to my knowledge, three ways to do a hip replacement and anyone who is considering
one should shop not only cost, but the specific procedure done by the surgeon. There is a huge
difference in recovery time and restrictions following the different approaches.


(71,033 posts)
8. No, the true poster child for medical tourism is clown governor GOODHAIR of Texas
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 09:50 AM
Aug 2013

Remember during the primaries when he took a break to have some kind of alternative surgery, the accompanying medications maybe or maybe not contributing to his general loopiness?

Well, he touted the alternative procedure, done in Houston(?), as a potential source for his fabled job-creating in Texas, making it a new industry for the state, medical tourism. "Fabled" because this Dipwad has NO policies of any kind that created jobs or did anything else, the state's benefitting from its own resources and proximity to its main trading partner, Mexico, not to mention the CHEAP LABOR.



(55,894 posts)
9. What stuck out from Moore's movie Sicko- even if you have insurance it often won't cover you
Mon Aug 5, 2013, 09:55 AM
Aug 2013

when you need it.

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