The important questions

Some have scoffed at the idea of traveling to India or Thailand for medical care.  How about New Zealand for the same reason?  They speak English and have such American necessities as McDonalds and Starbucks.  Rumor is the scenery is beautiful, too.

Medtral is hoping that an experience similar to that found in the United States will be the reason American health care travelers choose New Zealand for their next hip replacement.  From The Washington Post: “The company says it can offer procedures at boutique hospitals with follow-up personal nursing care at a fraction of the cost of the same surgery in the United States.”

Only 30 North Americans have registered with the company in ten months of existance.  The article also says that cost comparisons are difficult because of the variability in pricing across the U.S.  Medtral is focusing on a market they estimate at 75 million uninsured and underinsured Americans.

Here is the most important point, however:

“If my insurance company will cover the major share of the cost of the procedure, then I’m inclined to have it done here in California, since my biggest concern is what if something goes wrong,” says Shaw, an eighth-grade teacher from Mountain View, Calif. “I really don’t want to have to travel back to New Zealand for the sole purpose of doctor visits. That’s a bit expensive on a teacher’s salary.” If his insurer balks at the U.S. expenses, he is ready to make the case for traveling to New Zealand.

It always comes back to what patients will have to spend out of pocket.  Cost savings must be equivalent to the extra effort required to receive care in New Zealand (or any other country, for that matter). Getting a knee replaced requires significant rehab time and a few follow-up visits.  Turns out those tasks are easier to accomplish when the services are provided a few miles from the home rather than around the world.

“Will my insurance cover it?” and “How much is it going to cost me?” have been, and will continue to be, more important questions than “Who is doing my procedure?” and “Where is my procedure being done?”

That doesn’t seem right.

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