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Medical Vacation in Thailand - Page 2

A Series of Article by Joe Tapp
Medical Services Outside of the US  | Medical Vacation in Thailand  | Annual Physical

Recently we went overseas to get medical work done. Due to the low cost of travel both my wife and I elected to go. I had to have cataract surgery on my right eye. My industry has been outsourced overseas for about ten years so I find myself either unemployed or retired. Since no one wants to give a high paying job to a person almost 60, I must be retired. That is not to say I do not make some money or have real estate and stock investments. I just do not want to give them to the medical industry.

The US health system is rated 37th overall out of 190 countries by the World Health Organization. Thailand is rated 47th overall.  The WHO has eight parameters to evaluate countries’ medical system delivery. We only ranked #1 in level of responsiveness and health expenditure per capita in international dollars.  We spend more per person than all of the other 190 countries looked at. France, with their #1 overall rating is ranked 18th in spending cost. Thailand is ranked 64th in this category.  If we were so good, why would need insurance anyway? When you do go to a hospital it smells like a hospital and that is not a good sign. The staff always seems to have a haggard look. They exude an aura that you are being processed as opposed to being taken care of.

The medical industry appears to want every family to contribute $12000 per year to their pockets. That is what adequate medical insurance costs for two people nearing the age of 60 or for a family that is younger. It appears that they feel that 20% of the average American’s income should be theirs. They hedge their bets by declining coverage for pre existing conditions and having high deductibles. It makes you wonder what is the insurance premium

for if you have to pay so much extra if something actually goes wrong.

Actually, only about 5% of all Americans have to spend more than 4 days in a hospital before that age of 65. Half of those are the result of accidents like car wrecks or pregnancies. We have about 300,000,000 people in our country. The numbers appear right as that leaves 7,500,000 that really need a hospital. That is over their life to age 65. “Have to spend” deserves a note as many people go to the hospital but do not have to actually have meaningful medical services.

Whether you have your employer pay for the insurance, you co pay the insurance, or you do not have insurance, the medical industry is over charging by a factor of at least two.  IF you have insurance the costs for the medical procedures are less than if you do not. Conversely, if you do not have insurance the costs are more. The net result of this, however, is that you pay more for medical help with insurance than without it. The caveat is that if you really, truly need immediate help or have a have a long term disease then insurance is a better deal. Unfortunately, if you have either of these problems, when you do not make your premium payment you lose your insurance. If the medical bill gets too large, they will try to help you. My sister worked for a large a financial company. Her son, Shawn, became ill with leukemia when he was 12 and died exactly on his 18th birthday. Several times along the way the insurance company tried to cancel her from the company’s group insurance plan based on the fact they were paying out too much money. Our family will forever be grateful to the President and management of her company for not allowing them to do that.

When I tried to ascertain what the cost of my cataract surgery would be, I went to two doctors and two hospitals as well as getting data for such places as the Mayo Clinic. If I had any doubts that our medical industry is really screwed up, that was an education. Everything is fragmented. No one could tell me what the final cost would be. NO ONE! One hospital actually said if I needed a second night in their hospital, I would have to sell my house. They would give me list of prices for services but NOT ONE would give me a list of the total charges for my cataract surgery.

What I finally ascertained was that the cataract surgery would cost at least $10000 and could go a lot higher.

You can go many places in the world and get better care for 25% of what it costs in the US. These are not idle opinions. I went overseas, had a lot of medical work done, have the receipts and will show them to anyone. Many people, and even companies are sending their employees, half way around the world. You can go to Asia, India, Mexico, Canada, Caribbean Islands, Poland, Yugoslavia and the list goes on. Not all of them will net you a 75% savings but the convenience may appeal to you.

We attacked the problem in two directions. What would it cost to get just the cataract taken care of and what kind of medical help can we get for $10000. As I knew I would need the other eye done at some point and we both needed physicals, we elected to take the second approach. This was an easy decision as we got several written quotes from Thailand from $1500 to $2000 per eye operation. It was even less expensive in India. The quotes covered everything. The costs of the operations I had were actually lessthey quoted.

I had spent a year in Thailand during the Vietnam War, spoke a bit of Thai, liked the people and knew there were a lot of ex servicemen retired there. Several airlines have regular daily service to Thailand and many of the flights cost from $1000 to $2000 round trip. Thailand has very modern facilities including transportation, telephone, hotels and, most importantly, the internet. Good quality hotels are $25 to $75 per day and all include a great breakfast. There are many fine resorts on the Gulf of Siam in the $100 per night range. Email me at joetapp@comcast.net and I will send you a photo album of our trip.

Here is what it cost us:

Medical includes two cataract operations, full medicals: $4871

For both of us: Including EKG, blood work, X-rays (about 20 each 2 ft by 2 ft), dental exam, 10 fillings, broken tooth repair, filling replacement, ear-nose-throat exam, two separate visits with two doctors to discuss problems found and resolve the problems, 4 pairs of eyeglasses, and a meal with each exam.

Hotels, meals, transportation, three days at a resort on the beach, sightseeing and lots of gifts: $3502

TOTAL: $8673

Insurance would have cost us at least $13900, just in this year alone with the deductible. Since they do not cover pre existing conditions, we would have had to have the insurance in place for some longer period.

We feel that the medical procedures we had would have cost at least $39000 in the US. That is a saving of $30000. It took more time and effort.  The flights were long but comfortable. But we did not give up one iota of quality medical care. We both feel we got better care in Thailand than we ever could have in the US. The hospital was very modern.  It looked more like a mall and did not smell like a hospital. The staff were prompt, courteous and professional. There are signs at each specialty proclaiming:

IF YOU HAVE WAITED MORE THAN 15 MINUTES PLEASE SEE A NURSE.

Would we do it again? YOU BET!

We did everything on the internet. We found a lot of data from the vendors point of view but it was not possible to get experiences of people that are doing this. We are setting up a web site to tell the stories of people that have had work done overseas. We want to hear from you and look at your receipts to verify quality and pricing. Please contact us for the time being at joetapp@comcast.net.

It is very sad that a person can go half way around the world for a 30 minute operation and save so much money. If we spread the word that quality medical services are competitive with US services, we as consumers will do more to reduce the cost of medicine than all the politicians combined. The US medical industry just simply is not worth what they are asking us to pay.

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