Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where Will Medical Tourists Go for Their Surgeries Next?

In her opinion piece at Investors Business Daily, "Coming Soon: The Nightmare from Up There," Sally Pipes writes about her Canadian mother's experience with socialized medicine:
In June 2005, she wasn't feeling well and thought she might have colon cancer. She asked for a colonoscopy but was told by her doctor that it was unnecessary. The doctor ordered an X-ray, which revealed nothing.

By December, she was 30 pounds lighter, bleeding — and finally eligible for care. She spent two days in the emergency room and two days in a transit lounge waiting for a room. A colonoscopy revealed advanced cancer. She died two weeks later.

And then there's this story:

Former Canadian Member of Parliament Belinda Stronach steadfastly opposed any privatization of Canadian health care while in office.

Yet in 2007, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, she effectively opted out of her beloved public system in order to have surgery in California. For most Canadians, such medical tourism is not an option.

I googled "Belinda Stronach" to see whether her California experience had changed Stronach's mind about Canada's socialized health care. This is what her spokesman, Greg MacEachern, had to say about the "personal and private matter between Belinda, her family and her physicians":

Belinda had one of her later-stage operations in California, after referral from her personal physicians in Toronto. Prior to this, Belinda had surgery and treatment in Toronto, and continues to receive follow-up treatment there.


Belinda thinks very highly of the Canadian health-care system, and uses it when needed for herself and her children, as do all Canadians.

The later-stage surgery, it turns out, was breast reconstruction, which Stronach, a wealthy heiress, could well afford. She has since bought Canada a nice new breast reconstruction center. But Canadian breast cancer survivors' tax payments into socialized medicine don't cover that type of surgery, although U.S. private insurance usually does.

If socialized medicine takes root in the U.S., and Belinda couldn't take a flight to California for her surgery, where would she go? Today's top competitors for her surgical dollar would be Thailand, Singapore, India, Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, South Africa, Jordan, Malaysia, Hungary, Latvia, and Estonia.

I guess those surgeries will be for people well enough (and young enough) to make the trip, unlike Sally Pipes' mom.

Get ready, North America.

Bet you can't wait.

Note: There's still time to call or write your senators about Cap and Trade. The exorbitant hidden cost increases that cap and trade will bring, if it gets through the Senate, aren't going to make paying for that trip to Bangkok General Hospital any easier.


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