If You Have to Ask…Fuggedaboutit!

th (1)

Trans·par·en·cy: the quality or state of being transparent. Origin:  Medieval Latin trānspārentia. Source: Dictionary.com

Transparency, a simple enough word, one that conveys the idea that something is transparent, clear, understood, can be easily recognized and seen; yet, a word that the medical tourism industry, and the health care industry at large has so far failed to grasp. This lack of transparency is clear, or rather transparent to anyone who has tried to figure out the cost differentials for treatment procedures from one part of the US to another, let alone from one country to another, for the same procedures.

This is the dilemma I have been encountering for some time as I have been writing this blog. I have tried to approach several of my contacts in the medical tourism industry to get information on certain surgical procedures such as hip, knee, spinal fusion, carpal tunnel, and other occupational-related surgeries so that those in the workers’ compensation industry in the US can compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges, as best as possible, given the number of hospitals in the Caribbean and Latin America region that cater to medical tourism. Unfortunately, I have run into difficulty getting this information for a variety of reasons.

One reason is that some of my contacts are busy with their own affairs to get such data from the hospitals, and then forward it on to me. I quite understand that, and can appreciate that if it was me, I, too would be too busy to do so. But in the case of one of my contacts, who has been more than generous with her time and assistance, we have been frustrated by bureaucracy, politics, and turf battles between hospitals in the same group, and in the same country.

It should be a simple thing to quote a price for a particular surgical procedure such as a hip replacement or a knee replacement. Even if it is an average of a range of prices, it is still better than guessing or taking it on faith that medical tourism destinations are less expensive than US hospitals, with or without the cost of airfare, accommodation and other expenses factored in. For example, in one of my earlier posts, I included the following table to compare hip and knee surgeries costs in Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico with that of US costs.

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How accurate are these figures is anyone’s guess, but at least when you look at the four countries listed, there is a discernible difference in cost, not only between that charge in the US, but between the three Latin American countries as well.

To further illustrate what I mean, and to show that transparency of prices is not limited to the Latin American region, the next table, which I cited in my white paper on medical tourism and workers’ compensation, shows price differentials between the US, India, Singapore and Thailand, and includes airfare and accommodation for two.

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As the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently did here in the US with hospital charges for spinal fusions, so too should the medical tourism do the same for all procedures, at all hospitals and in all countries. Spinal fusions at the top 10 American hospitals range from $269,846 to $471,121, and overall, between $19,000 and $470,000.

It should not be so hard to find out the same kind of information from a hospital in a country that is establishing itself as a major medical tourism destination. While the American workers’ compensation industry only accounts for 2% of the health care market in the US, that market in and of itself is pretty large, and should not be ignored, especially as the American workforce is getting more and more Hispanic, and in particular, in states like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as other states in the union with a growing Latino presence.

So, transparency, a simple word that can be defined simply as the state or quality of being transparent, clear and understood, needs to be the most important idea when any country or hospital in that country wants to pursue medical tourism business, no matter if it is from private individuals, group health care plans, or workers’ compensation insurers and employers covered under that insurance or by self-insured coverage. Transparency needs to be transparent.

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This entry was posted in Health Care Costs, Hospitals, Medical Tourism, Workers' Compensation and tagged , , , , , , on by .

About Transforming Workers' Comp

Have worked in the Insurance and Risk Management industry for more than thirty years in New York, Florida and Texas in the Claims and Risk Management spheres, primarily in Workers’ Compensation Claims, Auto No-Fault and Property & Casualty Claims Administration and Claims Management. Have experience in Risk and Insurance Business Analysis, Risk Management Information Systems, and Insurance Data Processing and Data Management. Received my Master’s in Health Administration (MHA) degree from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida in December 2011. Received my Master of Arts (MA) degree in American History from New York University, and received my Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Liberal Arts (Political Science/History/Social Sciences) from SUNY Brockport. I have studied World History, Global Politics, and have a strong interest in the future of human civilization in all aspects; economic, political and social. I am looking for new opportunities that will utilize my previous experience and MHA degree. I am available for speaking engagements and am willing to travel. LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/richardkrasner Resume: https://www.box.com/s/z8rxcks6ix41m3ocvvep

4 thoughts on “If You Have to Ask…Fuggedaboutit!

  1. Dave Rice

    Richard, we have spoken once regarding medical tourism. I can provide you specific current pricing on many procedures available in Costa Rica and Panama. Please feel free to contact me.

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    1. richardkrasner Post author

      Dave,

      I am looking for this information so that I can write a blog piece about what countries in the region charge. It is a follow up to my January piece that just listed hospitals I found at the MTA Congress in October. Those brochures did not have data, and their websites are bare as well. I want to do this to get the work comp industry aware of the cost difference between them and the US.

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  2. juliewmunro

    It would be useful if a report on cost of procedures for medical tourists in Latin America includes comparisons with the cost that local patients pay.
    Julie Munro, President Medical Travel Quality Alliance

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    1. richardkrasner Post author

      Julie,

      I agree, this way we can compare similar procedures here in the US and see how much of a savings there would be. Hopefully, the total cost of savings would include cost of airfare, accommodations and other costs normally included in medical tourism packages.

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