Surgery Center of Oklahoma Blog

April 25, 2011

Medical Tourism

Filed under: Uncategorized — surgerycenterok @ 2:23 am

Part of the basis for the prices that you see on our website are the prices that are charged overseas for similar procedures.  We thought that if you weren’t going to be out the cost of international travel that a similar or slightly higher price than the price in Thailand would result in an overall savings.  We thought that people from the U.S. that were uninsured and traveling to foreign countries would make up the bulk of our patients.  We were wrong.  Most of our patients have come from….Canada! Yes, this wonderful country to the north with the excellent health care system everyone is raving about is responsible for most of our tourism referrals.  You are asking yourself, “why would anyone in Canada with their “free” health care come to Oklahoma City for a surgical procedure and pay out of their pocket?”  As P.J. O’Rourke famously said, “..if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it’s free.”  Health care in Canada isn’t free, of course…nothing is.  But folks up there think it’s free because they don’t have “out-of-pocket” expense at the time of care (if and when that occurs…if ever).  And this causes the demand to outstrip any possibility of an adequate supply.  This demand (due to the perceived “freeness” of care) has bankrupted their government.  The government has responded with…you guessed it….Soviet-style prices controls (which have worsened the shortages) and rationing.  As one Canadian has said, “the Canadian health care system only guarantees you a place in line.”  Want to wait 3 years for a heart bypass procedure?  Want to wait 2 years to see a neurosurgeon for your brain tumor (which will probably kill you or become inoperable by the time you get to see the surgeon).  Want to wait 2 years to see an orthopedist after you have torn your knee ligaments skiing?  Want your sick child to wait 2 years (at age 2) before they can be seen by an ear, nose and throat surgeon to have their tonsils and/or adenoids removed?  I could go on and on  with examples we have seen and stories we have heard.  If we adopt a similar system here, we will be going to Thailand to have surgical procedures performed in a timely fashion if the Canadian model is a predictor.

What other evidence does anyone need that the Canadian single payor system has failed except that patients are coming to Oklahoma City and paying for their care out of their pockets?

G. Keith Smith, M.D.

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