Timmi Ryerson, a San Diego stock market analyst, says her left hip actually
works again, thanks to an orthopedic specialist in India.
…What’s new about these procedures is not the exotic locales the three
chose, but the way they paid for their far-flung surgeries.
While at least 150,000 Americans travel abroad for medical care every year,
according to the American Medical Association, Ryerson, Mason and Davies
represent a small but growing category of medical tourist: patients whose
insurance companies have agreed to foot at least part of the bill.
"I think that’s the solution to our health care crisis," said Davies, 53, whose
company plan, Delta Dental, maxed out his dental benefit, about $2,500, toward
the $30,000 he spent to repair damage caused by years of grinding his teeth, a
procedure that would have cost an estimated $80,000 in the United States.
Increasingly, some of the nation’s larger employers and leading health insurers
Once the province of the poor and uninsured, medical tourism is gaining
attention of industry giants such as CIGNA, Aetna and Blue Cross/Blue Shield,
who say they either have begun or are considering pilot programs that provide
limited coverage for foreign care. One Montana firm, Employee Benefit Management
Services Inc., recently began offering medial tourism plans to its 120
self-insured clients in the Northwest…
"I just think that others need to be aware that they are able to have a safe
procedure done out of the country for a price at a third the cost," she said.
Ryerson, 61, said her private Blue Cross plan paid 80 percent of a $7,000 hip
resurfacing surgery in Chennai, India, that would have been about $55,000 in the
U.S. – if she could get it at all.
In 2006, the hip resurfacing device necessary for her surgery had just been
approved for U.S. use by the federal Food and Drug Administration and not many
domestic doctors had experience with it. Dr. Vijay Bose, her U.K.-certified
surgeon in India, had performed the surgery more than 1,100 times.
"Doctors here didn’t know what they didn’t know and I didn’t want to be a guinea
pig," she said.
While she was there, Ryerson also had cosmetic surgery and dental work done at
her own expense…