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Medicine The Almighty Buck United States Science

Wealthy Americans Turning To Europe For Medical Treatment 519

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-can-afford-to-heal-this-well dept.
theodp writes "Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reports that prior to undergoing recent neck surgery, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning flew to Europe for stem-cell therapy that's used overseas but not yet in the United States. Earlier this year, Fortune reported that prior to his liver transplant, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took an unpublicized flight to Switzerland to undergo an unusual radiological treatment which was not available in the U.S. Some Americans are willing to go abroad to seek what they can't find at home in hopes of improving — or saving — their lives, and health providers are eager to respond. 'It moves fast, this industry,' said the director of Medical Tours International in 2007. 'They think, 'Look at all these sick, rich patients.''"
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Wealthy Americans Turning To Europe For Medical Treatment

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  • Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I used to be cool with Jesus....then I found out he hated science. :/

      • by KingAlanI (1270538) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:29AM (#37439482) Homepage Journal

        "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." - Mohandas Gandhi

        Jesus Himself does in many ways seem like a positive example; people following the obnoxious behavior of the Old Testament God seems to be the issue IMHO. Christians not partaking of such behavior is good, but in some ways they seem to be glossing over that issue in the Book.

        • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:39AM (#37439572) Journal

          Most Christians do not realize Jesus was pretty cool to the people of different faith than him, allowing them their own beliefs so long as they didn't bother the people of his faith.

          Jesus, however was extremely intolerant. At least, he was intolerant to those of his own faith who abused it for their own benefits. I can only imagine what he'd do to the Christian right, right now.

        • by rwa2 (4391) *

          Amen! Let's get the boys and girls together and have a laying of hands!

          (which I think had been scientifically proven to have some kind of beneficial relaxation effect [citation needed])

        • by CapuchinSeven (2266542) on Monday September 19, 2011 @10:14AM (#37440816)
          What I find interesting about Christians and Christ, is that whenever the bible makes out Christ was a dick (i.e. cursing a fruit tree to never have fruit again because he wanted fruit but the tree was out of season so there was none to have) Christens call it a metaphor, but whenever he did something awesome then that's totally real and actually happened.
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:22AM (#37439428) Journal

      Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

      I know it's fun to jump on the scientifically inept politicians but I might also cite general concern for what a stem cell treatment entails [slashdot.org]. Several medical professionals have explained to me that just randomly injecting stem cells into your body has unknown effects depending on the stem cells and the localization of the injection. This causes a variance of anything from magically cured to cancer-like growths. Stem cells aren't very well understood yet ... and some of that is to blame on halting embryonic stem cell research but even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells [slashdot.org]. As we develop more ways to get stem cells, their hobbling of the US medical field becomes moot (assuming adult stem cells are just as awesome as embryonic stem cells -- something I don't know).

      So, yeah, you know the FDA and other regulators are pretty slow moving to approve all this in the United States until that becomes more science than "Let's see, you take the syringe here and inject this shit there and ... are you cured yet? Oh, you died? Well, send in the next medical tourist!" Why doesn't the article explain what "procedure" or "treatment" Tonya Winchester was administered in Russia?

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:33AM (#37439522) Homepage Journal

        even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells

        So it's all about the fetuses.

        I see...

      • by Jazari (2006634) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:35AM (#37439528)

        This causes a variance of anything from magically cured to cancer-like growths.

        There is absolutely no danger in using stem cell to treat a fatal disease. So what if your stem cell injection may cause cancer in 2 years if your current disease will cause death in 6 months? Patients who are close to death should be allowed to opt into almost any treatment that has a plausible chance of success (unlike therapies which are proven frauds, like homeopathy, etc.)

        • by definate (876684) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:53AM (#37439690)

          Good point. Though, as it stands, the government is more than happy to allow you to spend insane amounts of money on frauds. My mother actually deals with this a lot, as she works with the sickest people, in the worst circumstances, and watches them spend all their money on things such as (these aren't a joke)...
          Belly Button Massage
          Reiki
          Prayer Circles
          Crystals
          Potions/Elixars
          Chiropractors
          etc.

          These people come in promising the world, provide temporary happiness, followed by a crushing sense of what have I done, I've left my family broke, and I'm still dying.

          In comparison, even the worst possible scenario you could see with medical practitioners doing trying 'dangerous' (READ: experimental) medicine, looks insignificant in comparison.

          • by ArcherB (796902)

            Good point. Though, as it stands, the government is more than happy to allow you to spend insane amounts of money on frauds. My mother actually deals with this a lot, as she works with the sickest people, in the worst circumstances, and watches them spend all their money on things such as (these aren't a joke)... ...
            Prayer Circles ...

            Anyone who spends money on Prayer Circles deserves what they get. I'm not judging the effectiveness of prayer. I'm judging those who would pay for something that so many will gladly do for free. If anyone charges you to pray for them, their prayers will not be heard. "Dear God. (customer's name) has paid me to pray for him, so I'm doing that. Please do what he asks. Amen." If you want prayer, call a real church and ask them to pray for you. They'll not only do it for free, but they'll probably do o

        • by vlm (69642)

          There is absolutely no danger in using stem cell to treat a fatal disease ... Patients who are close to death should be allowed to opt into almost any treatment that has a plausible chance of success (unlike therapies which are proven frauds, like homeopathy, etc.)

          I mostly agree with you, but the traditional responses are:

          1) "Binary thinking for the fail" Other than, say, a gunshot wound to the heart, or decapitation, very few medical conditions are 100% long term fatal. I think we can safely assume that within the next 200 years I'll be dead, therefore my your argument is morally and ethically correct for me to take any treatment I want. Logic chopper types are gonna hack your argument up like a bad gintzu knife infomercial.

          2) No danger to the patient, but there

      • by definate (876684) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:35AM (#37439530)

        Turns out that the problem with what you've pointed out, isn't necessarily stem cell treatments in general, but more so, those people were forced to go to Thailand. Why Thailand? Because it's also doing the treatments, but they're cheaper. This article is about the rich people, going to rich progressive countries, with well trained, and well staffed hospitals, and getting the kind of treatments that the scientifically inept politicians have banned... because, after all, politicians know better than doctors and scientists, especially when it comes to, you know, health care and science.

        As such your complete argument is both retarded, and false. This IS happening due to the scientifically inept politicians. Unless you're saying that the Swiss are a reckless people with a terrible health care system. If so, the WHO [wikimedia.org] begs to differ. So, for all your harping on, you're completely wrong, and your discussion on whether or not YOU or your unnamed sources believe it's correct/worthwhile/dangerous, is a red herring.

        But thanks for your useless input.

      • by andydread (758754)
        Well those treatments probably would have been here if it wasn't for the endless regulation of the Federal Gubmint. Not to worry. The republicans want to get rid of entities such as the FDA, EPA, etc. So when they get back in power look for all these entities to be severely crippled. And people can get their treatments without having to worry about pesky things like safety.
      • by durrr (1316311)
        Only allowing non-embryonic stem cell research makes it rather problematic to crossmatch what markers are typically embryonic and therefor more likely to result in teratoma-like growth patterns from induced stem cells.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381)

        Yes, if you go to Thailand and grab yourself some Stem Cell treatment, they'll do that, and that is fucking dangerous.

        However, there are other treatments, where they use the stem cells to grow differentiated cells (either in-situ or in-vitro), and use THOSE to treat the patient. It is still stem cell treatment, but not necessarily nearly as dangerous.

      • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:46AM (#37439632) Journal

        and some of that is to blame on halting embryonic stem cell research but even the Republicans are okay with non-embryonic stem cells [slashdot.org].

        Your post is spot on, with one minor common misconception.

        Embryonic stem cell research was not "halted". Since there was no federal funding for stem cell research at all, you may not halt something that never existed. President Bush's order forbade federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on new stem cell lines only. Research on embryonic stem cells from lines that existed at that time was to be funded, where it wasn't before, and there was no restrictions on non-embryonic stem cell research.

    • by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:31AM (#37439504)

      No, it doesn't.

      It comes from the US law that medical devices and drugs cannot be marketed without FDA clearance. 21 CFR 820 and so on. That takes a lot of time and money.

      It also comes from the US hospitals being very conservative when it comes to offering new procedures. Technically doctors can do just about anything. Even use devices and drugs "off label", by passing FDA requirements. But in reality, doctors must get approval from hospital IRB's before doing something experimental. IRB's are conservative, political, and slow. Most docs prefer to just stick with routine stuff.

      But if you are rich, you can bypass those safety check and go to another country for experimental procedures using uncleared drugs and devices.

      • by nospam007 (722110) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:02AM (#37439770)

        "But if you are rich, you can bypass ..."

        If you are poor, you can get a flight plus a multiple bypass in Europe for the sum of a couple of months insurance in the US.

        For a couple of hundred bucks you can get a cheap flight plus an abortion in Amsterdam or London.

      • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:04AM (#37439792) Journal

        It also comes from the US hospitals being very conservative when it comes to offering new procedures.

        But, but, duriing the health care "debate" we were told that all inovation came from the wonderful free market American system and the socilist eurofags would be screwed if they couldn't steal American ideas.

        I'm so confused.

    • Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

      No, it has nothing to do with that. There are unique, specialized treatments in every corner of the Earth. If they're successful, they'll spread.

      Plenty of people travel in all directions to seek advanced care, even (especially) to your 'anti-science' America, and the wealthier the patient the easier it is for him to travel for medical care (or poorer, if they don't have insurance and are seeking affordable care).

      • That's very true. But I would argue that this is an direct indictment of two positions that tend to go together: "American Medicine is the best in the world" and "We therefore can do no wrong when it comes to medical policies." It's obvious that the standard trope that the rich come to the US for treatment isn't really true anymore. From there, it is also clear that the US medicine isn't the best in the world anymore, and, as a matter of fact, socialist Europe with its nationalized healthcare is actually ah

    • by ArcherB (796902) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:38AM (#37439556) Journal

      Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

      No. It has to do with the FDA making absolutely positively sure that a treatment is safe, or at least that we know all the possible risks associated with each treatment. This takes years to complete for each and every treatment, which means that during those years, any treatment under investigation or medical trials will be unavailable in the US.

      Of course, don't let the facts stop you from making your anti-Christian remarks. You should blame those dastardly Christians for everything you see wrong in the world. On Slashdot, it will even get you modded "Insightful", even though your comment is based on no facts whatsoever. Kinda like what you accuse Christians of doing.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      Could this have anything to do with dodging anti-science policies of the American far right?

      No, because the stem cells that Manning received were not fetal - they were stomach cells.

      I'm not certain, but I think the reason that procedure has not been approved in the US is that it has not passed the FDA criteria for efficacy. And, in fact, it appears to have not worked for Manning - he had another neck surgery after the treatment.

    • the over-regulation of the left that causes approval of things like stem-cell treatments, etc, to take forever.
  • religion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:12AM (#37439378)

    maybe because most other countries in the modern world don't have a large rabidly religious and anti-science segment of their populations.

  • ... you sir, are correct!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:14AM (#37439388)

    This can't be true. We have the best health care system on earth! I heard it on Fox News, so it must be true.

    • by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:46AM (#37439634)
      No you have the most expensive health care system on earth. Per capita, Cuba has the best health care system on earth.
      • by gman003 (1693318)

        How do you even measure that? Health care quality is already normally measured in cases per thousand people (or ten thousand, or whatever).

        • by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:04AM (#37439796)
          Indicators (infant mortality, maternal mortality, life expectancy) versus cost per capita. It's measurable. Not my area of specialty but I am a physician. I remember discussing it at length both in biostatistics and family medicine courses. Cuba and Canada were always near the top, and the US usually ends up between 7th and 16th place. Of course this varies year by year but the trend is pretty obvious. Look it up! I'm sure the world heath organization must have some searchable tables.
      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:09AM (#37439868) Homepage

        Well, not exactly - Cuba gets the best bang for the buck, but in terms of patient outcomes the World Health Organization thinks France has the best health care system in the world. The US, by contrast, ranks 37th, and Cuba 39th, despite Cuba spending a fraction of what the US does per capita.

  • The US market produces a superiour health system doesn't it?

    Or maybe it's what you get with a health-care system that's more about money than health...

    Does this mean that health-care is a euphemism like health-and-safety?

    • by lolococo (574827)
      Sounds more like wealth care than health care to me.
    • It has nothing to do with socialized vs free market medicine. What it does have to do is that the FDA won't legalize a lot of practices that are commonplace in most European countries. In fact, you could say in this regard European countries have a more free market in health care procedures than the US.
      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Of course it is, but that little fact isn't going to stop the people who want socialized medicine in the US from using this article as a strawman to attack US health care.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:24AM (#37439442) Journal

    Let's see.

    Middle income Americans go to Canada for their pharmaceuticals.
    Thousands of US patients of all types go to Mexico and points south for all sorts of surgeries that aren't (yet, or ever) available in the US.
    This story points to wealthy Americans going elsewhere for not-yet-approved 'edgy' radiological treatments, or stem cell therapies not practiced here.

    Some on the left are going to see only that last one, and once again blame Bush for crippling US stem cell research. The fact is that is only seeing a single symptom of a more chronic condition: when you have a system crippled by politics and paralyzed by excessive litigation. when ideas, procedures, and research is circumscribed not by practicality or technology, but by policy set by science-illiterate representatives voted into their positions by a science-ignorant public for decades...well, what did we expect?

    Clearly, some Americans are choosing with their WALLETS that value is more important than litiginous recourse - if you're buying a cut-rate surgery in Mexico, you're not really scrutinizing their malpractice coverage. If you're buying your heart medication from some website *.ca, FDA approval is clearly not your primary concern.

    Don't get me wrong; anyone conversant with US history will recognize the consistency here. The US has always has a population that is non-intellectual, I believe even de Tocqueville commented on that in 1830. But like so many things in American popular culture, it seems the currents have somehow lately surged to tidal waves that threaten to swamp the whole boat.

    Then again, that could just be me shouting "get off my lawn" like so many generations before ...

    • by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:42AM (#37439598)
      Americans look to Canada for drugs to avoid the price fixing set by the drug companies here (note that Adam Smith opposed the idea of monopolies, yet you need more than an invisible hand to shake those particular economic monsters from their stranglehold on the flow of resources). With regards to Mexico, I'm just seeing stories about Americans going south for cost reasons (perhaps because we don't have socialized medicine? Nah, can't be).

      As noted above (http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2434238&cid=37439428), some of the rush to Europe has to do with trying procedures that have enjoyed less rigorous testing than here (which has its good and bad sides. I don't understand why allergy drops are not yet mainstream treatment in the US, but the risks of certain kinds of stem cell treatment does make sense).

      Not to take away from your other points.

      policy set by science-illiterate representatives voted into their positions by a science-ignorant public for decades

      Now THAT is a valid concern indeed. There's no need to whip up Adam Smith or economics as the boogey man here, since it lack of regulation of drug company pricing, lack of socialized medicine coupled with strong regulation of new medical procedures and over regulation of medical research (stem cell research) are all the source of the medical tourism being described. (Excessive litigation has nothing to do with it, and it is getting annoying seeing that card played over and over again).

      In other words, it isn't something as simple as "the market is winning, we need less regulation".

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)

      The litigation started to really ramp up when the FDA started "streamlining" the medine approval process to favor big incumbent medical corps, while making the cost of approval so large that only those big incumbents could afford to risk producing a new product. Meanwhile extending patent and other monopoly protections of profits far beyond what's required to protect required profitability and into extreme profitability. While limiting liabilities from when medicine is pushed on patients but fails in ways e

    • by trout007 (975317)

      The fact is medical travel exists in order to avoid government regulations. Ameicans go to Europe or Asia because there are treatments and drugs that exist that the FDA doesn't allow us to take because they are the masters of our bodies. People from all over the world come to the US for rapid access to treatment if they have the money because their countries socialist healthcare causes shortages and long lines. People in the US go to poor countries for treatment they can afford because the AMA keeps a stran

  • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:24AM (#37439448)
    Although European countries have very different systems, they rather each have a health system whereas the US have a health industry. It shouldn't be surprising that one has better medical results and the other one better financial results...
    • Insightful? Hardly, no amount of bold text will make a logical argument appear where there is none. You have not proven at all that a 'system' is better then 'industry'. North Korea also has a 'system' and I'm willing to be it does not produce results comparable to US 'industry'.
      • by Pascal Sartoretti (454385) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:16AM (#37439966)

        You have not proven at all that a 'system' is better then 'industry'

        This was not my goal. Numerous sources have already shown that the US spend a bit more than Europe on healthcare (in % of GDP, see e.g. here [who.int]), but have poorer results in life expectancy (see e.g.here [wikipedia.org]). And don't tell me about correlation and causality...

        North Korea also has a 'system' and I'm willing to be it does not produce results comparable to US 'industry'.

        In the hierarchy of needs, food comes before healthcare...

  • Why is this news? Rich people have more money than poor people (Duh - thats an indicator that they are rich) and that allows them to do things that poor people can't. Whether that is normal or medical tourism.
     
    What would be news is reports of successful treatments that are available overseas but not in the US.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:25AM (#37439452)

    So what's the point of this?

    Some treatments are simply more available in certain countries.

    No, I'm not defending America's approach to healthcare, but I've seen the same bloody argument used from the other side for all the America-bound medical tourism from rich Canadians and Euros, and in the end it means absolutely nothing. Rich people travel a lot. Rich people min/max their medicine.

    • I'm glad someone beat me to saying it. Using a few outliers as representative of the whole is not sound thinking. Sure, what they're doing may be part of a larger trend, and if so, it's fine to tie that in to make an argument. But looking at these cases in a vacuum is misleading, since it ignores the multitude of cases where people travel to America for treatment, as well as anything happening to anyone besides the super-rich. As with you, I'm not defending what America has or suggesting we should throw out

  • FDA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474)

    Thank the Food and Drug administration for this. We had [slashdot.org] stories on /. about this before.

    Government money in health care and insurance is the reason why these are so expensive now [slashdot.org], when technology should have made all of the health care much cheaper (unlike many people believe, technology increases efficiencies and makes things less expensive, not more. Think about imaging methods that replaced exploratory surgeries. Think how many more patients a single surgeon can see today. Think cancer treatments done

    • While there is room for debate as to whether one needs a state entity to do safety and efficacy trials, you really lost me when you asserted that "the market" will determine efficacy more quickly and cheaply than a clinical trial...

      How, pray tell, will that happen?
      • Re:FDA (Score:4, Informative)

        by roman_mir (125474) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:54AM (#37439696) Homepage Journal

        when you asserted that "the market" will determine efficacy more quickly and cheaply than a clinical trial...

        - what do you think happened before FDA?

        Look at the way doctors have cooperated in the past to pass the information they gathered about treatment of different conditions and different cases. Private market provides huge exposure to any type of treatment, and if it is safe of-course, it will quickly be understood whether there is enough evidence that the treatment works. People exchange information without government, did you know that?

        Look at the way Mayo clinic was established - people were exchanging information and that made that clinic very competitive, people used to come to USA from all over the world to visit Mayo clinic because of CREDENTIALS, that were EARNED, not dictated by any government.

        It was competition that drove people to that clinic, which quickly disseminated similar approaches to treatment and information sharing among professionals everywhere in the world.

        It's like an iPhone - once one exists, everybody is going to emulate it based on success, which is measured in sales and profits.

        Profits are the feedback mechanism, which is the way the market tells the entrepreneur that he is on the right track. This is the same with iPads and health care.

  • It's an important distinction to make. People come to the US for the quality, and people from the US go elsewhere for availability, usually in desperation.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      It's an important distinction to make. People come to the US for the quality, and people from the US go elsewhere for availability, usually in desperation.

      Applies to many things but not hookers or Mexican food.

  • Oh no... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fullback (968784) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:30AM (#37439496)

    This isn't going to be pretty when the "We're Number One!" and "USA! USA! USA!" crowd gets here.

  • Overly Simplistic (Score:5, Informative)

    by psnyder (1326089) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:31AM (#37439512)
    Medical treatment varies greatly from disease to disease, from country to country.
    If you're looking for a general overview of the quality of care in a country, look at the survival rates of the widespread ones within a group.

    For example, if judging cancer survival, you might look at prostate, breast, colon, and rectal.
    "The highest survival rates were found in the U.S. for breast and prostate cancer, in Japan for colon and rectal cancers in men, and in France for colon and rectal cancers in women, Coleman's team reports." [webmd.com]
    • Yeah, this is pretty standard over hyped fare here. It could as well be, "Worlds best stem cell doctor decides to live in Switzerland." I bet he's rich over there too.

      Basically the US has the best medical industry because we pay through the nose for it, and (in general) the best surgeons from around the world can make a killing by living in the states. Doesn't mean that you won't find outstanding doctors that decide, hey living in Europe is more cool than a third BMW.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:40AM (#37439580) Homepage Journal

    These therapies are available, but there aren't that many patients. Not enough to support dispensing the therapies many places in the world.

    The US doesn't have to offer every single medical treatment. Not when so many are targeted at so few patients. Not when our medical system isn't properly organized or financed to deliver even basic medical services to nearly everyone in the country first. Basic care for practically everyone is a higher priority than the most exotic care for a few.

    The US does deliver that exotic treatment of rare diseases, often uniquely in the world, in vast overproportion to our population or even our weighted socioeconomic status in the world. There's plenty of unusual therapies for other countries to be the only ones to offer.

    If we're worried that strategic medical innovation is happening elsewhere, we should simply do what those other countries do in a world they share with the US: piggyback on the basic research and early practice when therapies are new, to commodify them to serve lots more people more cheaply, safely and effectively.

    That's how medicine works when it's primarily a service, not primarily a profitable business. The profit is retained, but not at the expense of the majority of the people's needs.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:40AM (#37439586)

    Doesn't every politician especially from the GOP say that the American Healthcare system and its actual care are the "best" in the world?

    By the way, this is despite the fact that various [nejm.org] metrics indicate the USA is no where near the top!

  • by Kagetsuki (1620613) on Monday September 19, 2011 @08:43AM (#37439606)

    Is one of the major reasons I'm never going back. The last time I went (which will be the last time, period) my son caught a cold and was turned away from three hospitals because we didn't have the right type of insurance. I guess I shouldn't say turned away, I should say they all told me that because I didn't have the right type of insurance and I didn't have the an appointment I would have to go to the ER, which would easily cost thousands of dollars. Here in Japan my son would have been seen immediately, for free, wherever we went. Our medical system isn't socialized either, so don't even try that argument.

    Shortly after that my wife had some allergy related breathing issues and we went to a hospital that did accept the insurance we had to get medicine. They diagnosed her with a degenerative lung disorder and ordered up all sorts of tests. Even with the insurance everything cost over $2,000 and guess what - it wasn't a degenerative lung disorder but rather a simple allergy attack like we thought in the beginning. On top of that we found every hospital we went to seemed dirty, was staffed with doctors and nurses who didn't seem to give a shit, and were constantly asked the same questions over and over as if the staff didn't bother to even look at the papers the previous person had filled out. I'm not just talking about one hospital either, all of them we went to were like this.

    So yeah, rich Americans go overseas for medical care? Wow, big surprise there.

    • You actually took your son to a hospital because he caught a cold? You have to be joking, right? Look, I'm a die hard social libertarian who sincerely believes that the founders understood that you can not have liberty without life, and you can not pursue happiness without liberty. But to waste the time of professionals on something as so ludicrous as suffering a runny nose is really absurd.

      • by sjames (1099)

        That's why he was surprised to be referred to the ER rather than to an associated walk-in clinic. That's sadly common in the U.S. when you have no insurance or the "wrong" insurance. You go to the busy and crowded ER where they HAVE to see you rather than to a much more appropriate clinic where they are not under that obligation.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:42AM (#37440346)

      staffed with doctors and nurses who didn't seem to give a shit, and were constantly asked the same questions over and over as if the staff didn't bother to even look at the papers the previous person had filled out

      I had to LOL at that. The first part is because they're frazzled after being on a 36 hour working shift dealing with people taking their kids to the hospital merely because they have the sniffles. Ask a doc what "GOMER" means... get outta my ER...

      The second part is if you're having trouble breathing or in pain they do that 100% intentionally and repeatedly to document your response, on the theory that if you start hallucinating or giving bonkers results, or even worse, can no longer physically respond, that would indicate blood oxygenation problems or truly intense pain. Also its SOP to talk like that to the relatives to show "they care" and also it gets any anti-social responses out of the way during a medically irrelevant and personally staffed moment rather than during a procedure or when they're freaking out alone. Its scripted by the management and legal teams based on extensive clinical research, certainly nothing personal. They ask those specific questions because obviously they already know the "correct" answers and can therefore evaluate the mental function of the patient and patient's relatives. Finally they have to do it repeatedly to make sure the patient is at least stable or preferably improving in function... if the patient and/or relatives gives worse and worse answers as time goes on, then the docs really start freaking out (although you're not suppose to be able to notice). If the patient is getting to be a bit of a smart ass about it, that is a pretty good indication the patient is feeling much better; they're actually hoping for that kind of response; if the patient has given up all hope and is ignoring them, then the nurses and docs start freaking out. It turns out that asking someone to perform is way the heck more accurate than asking someone to evaluate their own performance; I suppose that could be culturally different. My nurse niece in law had a long sorta humorous conversation about being trained to do this, and its apparently industry wide not just her, or her hospital, or her corporation, apparently the old timers who've heard it all tend to turn the practical experience section into a laugh riot.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:00AM (#37439762) Journal

    You know, having lived here for awhile, I can strongly recommend some excellent hospitals in Thailand. They are accredited by some American hospital organizations and I've personally used them for the some semi-serious conditions (knee-surgery) as well as very frequent monitoring of some chronic ailments (I'm a hypochondriac!).

    It's actually somewhat amazing as to the quality you get for the price. I stayed in a state-of-the-art brand new private hospital suite (with comfortable sitting area for guests, kitchenette, private bath, big screen television, remote controlled curtains, etc.) for less than the cost of one of the five star hotels. The surgery (from what I can tell state-of-the-art laproscopy) was not that cheap (still less than $5K for everything) included everything including recovery and physical therapy. Also, the cute Thai nurses were very pleasant to be around!

    Can't say all S.E. Asian countries are like this (there are some I'd stay far away from) but it's a great value for the money (they've got a great executive checkup that includes just about everything; blood tests, stress tests, chest X-rays, ECG, ultrasound, eye and ear tests, meeting with dietitian, etc.) for $250!. I wish that Medicare would pay for some of this stuff, it would save American taxpayers a ton of money (saving much more than transportation costs) while bringing down prices at home.

    By the way, the geeks amongst us might enjoy the fact that EVERYTHING is digital at these hospitals and for a small fee (about $8) every report, image, x-ray, ultrasound, endoscopy, MRI, ECG, EKG, video from every visit you've ever had is put onto a CD-ROM for you. I've got quite a collection on my iPad!

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday September 19, 2011 @09:20AM (#37440004)
    Rich patients fly to other countries to have exotic, untested, unproven procedures that have little to no chance of saving their lives. There's nothing new here. To somehow say that this behavior has something to do with the hobbling of medical science by the government (Which is a very real concern on its own) is just silly. The 2 subjects are unrelated.

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin

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