How India is Profiting off of America’s Expensive Healthcare System

"Americans spend more on healthcare than residents of any other developed nation on the planet, yet lack virtually every possible measure of a clean bill of health that would justify it."

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Henry Konczak had been experiencing shortness of breath so he went in for a check-up. A blood test revealed that he had an infection that required a month of intravenous antibiotics.

It is said that misfortunes always come in threes and it proved to be true in Konczak’s case. The blood infection was strike one. Strike two happened during the course of his treatment. The doctor discovered that he had a heart murmur. He would need to have his mitral valve replaced.

“Americans spend more on healthcare than residents of any other developed nation on the planet, yet lack virtually every possible measure of a clean bill of health that would justify it. Americans don’t live very long, they’re not very happy, and many of their health outcomes continue to differ starkly along racial and socioeconomic lines,” said Erin Brodwin, science correspondent at Business Insider.

Konczak experienced strike three when he started researching the cost of a mitral valve replacement. A call placed to Cleveland Clinic revealed the cost to be $130,000 and this did not include the cost of the operating surgeon.

Costhelper.com reports that the quote he received is the going average for the procedure. They say, For patients not covered by health insurance, valve replacement surgery typically costs from about $80,000-$200,000 or more with an average, according to an American Heart Association report, of $164,238, not including the doctor fee. A surgeon fee can add $5,000 or more to the final bill. For example, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire charges about $86,500, including doctor fee, after a 30% uninsured discount. St. Mary’s Hospital in Wisconsin charges an average of $107,000, but costs can reach $200,000 or more. And Baptist Memorial Health Care charges about $75,000-$140,000, not including doctor fee, but cost can go up to more than $200,000 with major complications.”

At the time of his health crises, Konczak was 65 years old. He had lost his insurance when he turned 50 and he had not been able to afford another. Without the procedure, he would die. If he paid for the procedure he would go bankrupt. He went in search of a third option and found India’s medical tourism sector.

India’s medical tourism sector is booming primarily because of cost. When you compare the cost for the same procedure in India to that in America, the cost is dramatically reduced.

In Konczak’s case, the price went from $130,000 to $10,000. This was inclusive of a successful surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, a prominent private facility in New Delhi, flights, lodging and medical fees over a 3-week period.

Konxczak joins over 1.4 million Americans who go abroad in search of more affordable healthcare. many of them are going to India and as a result, it is reported that the country is witnessing 22-25 percent growth in medical tourism. Healthcare providers are expecting growth in this industry to double to $6 billion in 2018 from $3 billion now.

India seeking to capitalize on this lucrative industry by releasing several new initiatives to make getting a medical visa to India even easier. Some of these include:

  1. The e-visa has been sub-divided into 3 categories: e-tourist visa, e-business visa and, e-medical visa. Before, e-visa’s were only available for tourists
  2. The e-visa facility has been extended to nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports and three ports: Cochin, Goa and Mangalore. This is up from 16 airports.
  3. The e-visa application window has been increased from 30 days to 120 days and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 days to 60 days. This also comes with double entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa.
  4. Separate immigration counters and facilitation desks to assist medical tourists have been provided at airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and, Hyderabad.

By 2020, the Economic Times reports that India’s medical tourism sector has the potential to grow to become a $9 billion industry.