I'm Fleeing The Country For Healthcare!

Photo: Hal Bergman

It’s all the buzz lately as healthcare costs rise, and especially after Michael Moore’s SICKO caught the attention of the masses. Those of us not living in places where everyone seems to get a free ride on the healthcare wagon are up in arms. Yet, we don’t seem to hear enough from those who take the leap and leave their home country in search of less expensive (and often higher quality) care. So, how can we know if it’s worth the trip? I’m going to India to find out. There are a million questions spinning around about this subject and I want to hear from WB readers. Maybe together we can bring light to this important issue. Please post questions on this thread and let me see if I can dig up some answers for all of us.

The term “medical tourism” equals big business. It was originally connected to boob jobs and face lifts in faraway lands. Now, it’s not so. People are leaving the country for major medical procedures such as cardiac surgery and organ transplants, which are depending on the country, often 5 to 10 times lower than the cost in the states. A bone marrow transplant that could cost approximately $250,000 in the U.S. is about $26,000 in India. Some countries are offended by the coined term of “medical tourism” because of its negative connotation. It’s regularly associated with people setting off to vacation-type destinations for cosmetic surgery at upscale spa-like facilities. These countries want credit for being just as technologically advanced in medicine as we are – and in many cases, even more so.

After navigating the medical maze all across the United States for years, I’m getting on a plane and going to New Delhi, India Dec. 9th for treatment that’s not legal here – embryonic stem cell therapy. After developing severe neuropathy (nerve damage in my limbs) at the age of 25, I began a journey that I could have never imagined would lead me nearly 8,000 miles from home. Earlier this year, I discovered that the neuropathy, along with a host of other serious health problems, was due to an undiagnosed case of Lyme Disease and other infections transferred from the tick that bit me. I do believe long-term antibiotic therapy is helping to control the Lyme bacteria. Unfortunately, my immune system, nerves and tissue have all been compromised over this time period. This is an ongoing battle for me - one that has amazing financial consequences as my health insurance denies claims and prescriptions left and right. I believe embryonic stem cells will help to restore my body. To me, it’s priceless to be able to receive this type of treatment because it’s a chance at a healthy life I don’t have the opportunity for here. In addition, maybe it will put an end to or at least curb future medical costs by helping my body heal instead of masking its problems. Even if the treatment was available in the U.S., I’m confident the cost would be astronomical and not covered by insurance.

Some are adamant there is high risk associated with leaving the country for medical care, but I’m not worried. I’ve suffered long enough, researched and utilized western medicine (which I’m thankful to have) - but now it’s time to step outside of the box. The average cost for procedures and care in India are about 1/5 what they are in the west; it’s one of the biggest pharmaceutical distributors to over 180 countries; and clinical outcomes for surgeries and treatment are par with the world’s best centers. To me, not following this road would pose the biggest risk of all – possibly at the cost of my future health.

If you want to follow my India trip, you can do so at www.HealthcareHacks.com over the next two months. But, I'll be back on WB to report what the quality, cost and attitude of healthcare is in a country that’s third-world by most standards, but ironically can offer more than available in many flourishing countries.

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Guest's picture
Minimum Wage

How much sightseeing does a medical tourist get to enjoy?

Amy B. Scher's picture

I guess that depends. I have trouble walking because I'm in chronic pain, but maybe the treatments will work so well I'll be able to trek around in no time!

Guest's picture

I wish you success in your quest.

I've now a number of people who had their dentistry done in Mexico or eastern Europe. All of it had to be redone.

Amy B. Scher's picture

are leaders in certain areas of medicine. So, I think it's probably best to scout out the most advanced country for whatever you need. I know India is a leader in cardiac care, oncology and I also read dentistry. But, maybe you wouldn't go there for some other treatments. This would be an interesting thing to look into - cost vs. quality. Thanks for the comment and the good wishes!

Guest's picture
Steve W

Health care in this country is f**** up.

The Fundamentalist wackos (and our sham President) won't allow stem cell research.

Our once-vaunted world leadership in science & research has long faded as we direct our tax dollars into a senseless war and give tax breaks for the richest 1%.

Heath care laws that prevent best health care practices (but make some companies rich) are bought and paid-for by Big Insurance and Bigger Pharmaceuticals, perpetuating medical mediocrity....

All that said, I wish you well and hope for your speedy recovery.

Guest's picture

Since a whole lot of doctors here are from India anyway, there are probably good reasons to go to India. My questions would be about the procedure itself: Exactly what happens? What are the side effects? What are the risks? What should be the results? Over what amount of time? Why would stem cells help Lyme disease? and on and on

Guest's picture

I truly hope that this is something that works for you!

I have been frustrated with "modern" medicine for quite some time and I'm not surprised that other countries are surpassing us in this field (and others.)

It's sad that it's cheaper to get on a plane and travel that far. Even sadder that the quality of care is more then likely better.

On a side note, from what I understand, S. Korea is where you want to go for major dental work. I had a roommate from there who wouldn't have dental work done here. She'd fly home to have it done. I've heard the same from other people as well.

Julie Rains's picture

I  hope all goes well with your trip and treatment. I didn't realize how common it is to go overseas to seek treatment until I picked up a copy of Good Housekeeping. Here's a link to an article, Passport to Cheaper Health Care? I look forward to reading about your journey.

Guest's picture

In my other comment, I should have mentioned that many countries upgrade their medical systems before dentistry. You can get good medical care in a lot of countries. It's likely that dentistry will follow.

A quality dental office requires a larger capital investment than some kinds of medical offices do. That's one reason why Cuba is able to give good medical care with a very limited budget.

I should disclose the fact that I'm a dentist.

I wish you success in your treatment. I'll be reading your blog...

Myscha Theriault's picture

First of all, good luck with your health care situation. Second of all, if you have the extra time, I happen to know that Beth at http://www.wanderlustandlipstick.com is looking for stories from women who have traveled to India. Might be something you want to check out.

Guest's picture

While your in India you should look into the pharmaceuticals end of things. India is one country that ignores US patent laws on medicines. They are also one of the biggest producers of generic and brand name drugs. Ironically they are contract producers for some of the big name US drug companies.

But the prices of drugs are tiny due to the exchange rate, cost of production there and not being forced to jack prices for patent holders. But what I found in researching all of this is that there wasn't a way to find licensed pharmacies in India that would ship to the US. If someone was able to figure out the standards used in India and a way to verify what pharmacies were reliable this could break the stranglehold on US patients.

Imagine being able to buy a $200 prescription for $20.

Guest's picture
Don Wood

Hi Amy,

Allow me to introduce you to our successful concierge company specializing in India. We are America's Medical Solutions Pvt., Ltd. an Indian company exclusively owned and operated by Americans.

I think what I'll write may sound a lot like an advertisement, but I think what I have to say will be very interesting to your readers.

Because we live here 24/7/365, and because we are Americans ourselves, and because we've been here over twenty plus years, we are a comforting voice and a warm hand to hold when so far from home and undergoing serious surgery. We keep contact with the family and friends and ever so many other functions.

Folks who have never traveled outside the United States but require Indian medical attention and prices find our free services absolutely essential. The doctors, hospitals and clinics pay us referral fees, so we are a genuinely free
concierge service, and one without commitments to anyone except our client.

We have valuable experience pointing our inquirers to a number of qualified
hospitals, doctors and clinics for every imaginable procedure, including the latest in hip resurfacing, LASIK procedures, etc., which the US has only just approved and instituted. Our surgeons have had more than four years of practice in these fields, and the best of them are teaching their counterparts in the States.

Also, because we live here, we are the silent but ever scrutinating observers keeping daily tabs on the accredited institutions, and they know it.

We help with virtually everything you can imagine from the bios on the physicians to reasonably priced long term stays all of which spells out "peace of mind," to patient and the home folks alike. We are a complete destination management company and absolutely free of cost.

Our concierge services include sightseeing and all kinds of activity planning keeping the time of year and holidays in mind. We cater the finest five star hotels to clean, westernized and inexpensive bed & breakfast establishments. We require our service providers to give us transparent all-inclusive packages and prices. Our concierge services include all airfares, domestic & International, lodging, transfers, special seating and accommodations required by the patient
and their traveling companion(s).

As a matter of fact, with India's pricing, one can afford to throw the whole family on a plane and enjoy one of the most diverse and colorful cultures in the world.

Our most important product is caring with the comforts like home, from folks that you would call friends at home, because we are from home.

Amy, since you're coming to India, be sure to make Bombay (Mumbai) a stop over. We'd be delighted to show you around.

Very best wishes for success in reaching for your dreams. Please contact me for anything I may do for you while you're there in New Delhi.

Don Wood, Director

Guest's picture
Rob in Madrid

Amy you don't have an RSS feed on your blog??????
Why not?

Guest's picture
Rob in Madrid

For google reader I mean.

Guest's picture

Congratulations on your decision to make this trip. I am very confident that you shal return with rave reviews. There are many misconceptions about the ability of medical professionals abroad. I think we have alot to learn from the east. They have learned from us and combined their eastern knowledge with our western expertise to arrive at an improved model. I will follow your case to see how it goes.


Greg Go's picture
Greg Go

Hi Rob in Madrid (#13, #14):

There is in fact a feed for Healthcare Hacks, and it should work in Google Reader (it's my favorite reader too!).

Try this link:


Please let us know if it doesn't work.

Greg (tech guy)

Amy B. Scher's picture

Thanks for your interest. The procedure itself will be posted on Healthcare Hacks just as soon as I find out the specifics for my treatment. Each person is different and the doctor will determine what's best for me. The theory behind how it could help Lyme Disease is to first, strengthen my overburdened immune system so it can fight some of the bacteria on its own; and second, for the stem cells to regenerate or repair the damage to my nerve, tissues, etc. Stay tuned...more to come.

Guest's picture

Good luck on your trip!

Guest's picture

A "free ride on health care" is a bit misleading. What Michael Moore and his "sickos" fail to address is who will pay for this so called free health care. Remember nothing is free, the question yet to be answered is who will pay for it? If your willing to live with even higher taxes and higher prices for goods and services then go ahead and support this so called free health care. What it will lead to is less for everyone. Who ever controls this free health care (most likely the govt) will be able to decide what you need for you and your family. One more way the Govt will be involved in our lives, one less freedom. Wake up! This is just like social security, Medicare, and welfare. Look how those people supported by those systems live. Look how much we all pay even if we are not nor never will be supported by those systems. Free health care is not for me nor my family nor my country.

-Just a concerned, free, voting, citizen in the US of A.

Guest's picture

You get what you pay for. Government is not the solution, it's the problem. We should focus on preventive medicine, & health education here with tax dollars, not more "band-aids."

Amy B. Scher's picture

That's why I used the phrase "seems to get a free ride..." Living with an illness, even when I am faced with insurance claim denials and such, I am still thankful that I have the choices I do, even if I pay for them. Thanks for your thoughts.

Guest's picture

Good luck! I hope you come home as healthy as can be!

Guest's picture

I look forward to following your trip.