Sunday, November 6

Outsourcing medical treatment

Passport to Health Care At Lower Cost to Patient: California HMOs Send Some Enrollees to Mexico
by Sonya Geis
....a Blue Shield of California HMO...provides all of [some families'] nonemergency care in Mexico. They are among 20,000 California workers and their dependents in health plans that cost 40 to 50 percent less than comparable care in the United States because the doctor's visits are outsourced south of the border.

With health care costs in the United States continuing to rise, many employers in Southern California are turning to insurance plans that send their workers to Mexico for routine care, plans that are growing by nearly 3,000 people a year.

...the new trend has some medical professionals in the United States worried that care is being sacrificed to low prices.

"There are quality standards that we are developing and implementing in America that are not going to be implemented there for a long time," said Jack Lewin, chief executive of the California Medical Association. "In terms of specialized care, it's critically important that we look beyond just cost savings."
The California Medical Association prides itself on "physician advocacy". I'm guessing what he really means is less money for American physicians. Still, high costs are not entirely their fault.
Lower-priced labor, malpractice insurance and overhead in Mexico mean both basic and sophisticated medical procedures can be performed at a small fraction of the cost. A hysterectomy that averages $2,025 in the United States costs $810 in Mexico, said Mary Eadson, director of legal compliance for the Western Growers Association, an agricultural organization that provides health insurance for California workers in Mexico.
It's not just money, though
Company officials emphasize the warmth of the Mexican medical culture.

"Mainly, the patients that come here are searching for more attention," said Juan Carlos Helu Vazquez, a gastroenterologist in Tijuana who sees Mexican and American patients. "They want the doctor to talk to them, be warm to them. There are a lot of patients who like the old-time medicine. They like the doctor asking about your family, your work."
Me, I'd just as soon save money. As for getting attention, during my recent colonoscopy at the Carbondale hospital, the nurses were "warm" enough, even if the physician was a little brusque.

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