Sunday, November 05, 2006

Break a Hip, See the World

Of course, we cannot trust our Canadian neighbors to the north with the manufacture of billions of dollars worth of medications; drugs that would undercut the price of those provided by U.S. companies. For that would threaten the bottom line of many members of Big Pharma.

But we can trust foreign countries' medical systems with the replacement of grandma's gamey old hip, because that would save the insurance companies a few bucks. Momentarily.

"... As an independent contractor for a small Coldwell Banker real estate franchise in Durant, Okla., she knew her privately purchased health plan would never pay up to $40,000 for the operation.

So she asked her boss about traveling to India where hip resurfacing alone would cost just $7,000. He not only gave her his blessing but offered to foot the bill, minus travel and hotels - making Gilmore one of the very first Americans sent overseas for surgery by an employer."

I was waiting for this. We're at peak oil, which means peak build-out, which further implies that everything, even your gall-bladder surgery, can be outsourced.

Now I realize the enormity of something I ran into about half a year ago while working with a particular patient at The Great Muffin Factory Institute. This one patient had been receiving rehabilitative, physical therapy, and skilled nursing services in Mexico, because it was cheaper. I do not recall how their insurance, or lack of it, played into this.

Unless you're a billionaire and can afford everything, you're underinsured.

"The studies found that most people who wind up in medical debt or bankruptcy -- two-thirds in the Commonwealth study and three-quarters in the Harvard study -- had health insurance when a family member got sick."

To resume the story, something about their condition had deteriorated so they skipped back north to the Valley for some patch-up work. I now assume that upon discharge they went back to Mexico to finish their run of physical therapy.

Travel out of the U.S. for hip-replacement or physical therapy is economical for two reasons only. Cheap labor and cheap fuel. We will probably have cheap labor forever. But the days of cheap fuel will be over in a couple decades.

Our leaders have driven us over a cliff, and now they are stepping on the accelerator pedal as we plunge. Down we go. Enjoy the view as it rushes by.

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