Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fed Up Consumers Vote With Their Actions

High costs. Long lines. Horror stories about quality issues and errors in care. These are the things that come most easily to mind for the average American when the topic of health care comes up.

The last time I had to wait in the emergency room, I was there for 9 hours before I even got any pain killers. Since I was there due to an attack of kidney stones you may imagine how displeased I was. For those lucky enough not to have had experience with these vicious little mineral deposits, they are painful enough to leave you doubled over in agony unable to function. One friend of mine who has both given birth to twins and had kidney stones tells me the stones were more painful. Based on my experience, I can believe it.

The bill was extraordinary and even with insurance I am still paying it off four years later.

This makes it hardly surprising that two topics I have written about here on the Health Care Reform Now! blog are rearing their heads again as many Americans embrace them attempting to avoiding our own system's well documented pitfalls. I speak of medical tourism and the growing number of retail health clinics opening up in big box stores like Walgreens and Wal-Mart across the country.

Via Linda Johnson at SFGate:

The number of people heading abroad for "medical tourism" could jump tenfold in the next decade, to nearly 16 million Americans a year seeking cheaper knee and hip replacements, nose jobs, prostate and shoulder surgery, and even heart bypasses, according to a forecast by health care consultants at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Meanwhile, the number of retail clinics operating in pharmacies, big-box and discount stores and supermarkets has jumped from about 200 in 2006 to nearly 1,000 last month, according to a second report from the Deloitte center.

[...] The two reports show potential big savings for U.S. consumers - and probably their health insurers - would come at the cost of American hospitals and doctors losing billions of dollars a year in revenue.

"Significant numbers of people are willing to vote with their feet to try something different, whether it's retail clinics or medical tourism," said Paul Keckley, the center's executive director. "U.S. providers are having to pay attention."

Ms. Johnson focused her article more on the medical tourism aspects, examining the benefits, drawbacks, and some very interesting arrangements made with American hospitals for pre- and post-procedure care. Even so, she does cover the rise of medical clinics like the one in my local Walgreeens that are rapidly assuming an important place in the health care landscape.

SOURCE: "Americans look abroad to save on health care - Medical tourism could jump tenfold in next decade" 08/03/08
photo courtesy of eowin, used under its Creative Commons license

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