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To save money, American patients and surgeons meet in Cancun

Phil Galewitz

CANCUN, Mexico – Donna Ferguson awoke at a resort in Cancun on a blazing July Saturday.

He was not seashore oriented. As an alternative, he walked a short hallway from his Sheraton lodge to Galenia Hospital.

Just a little later that morning, the surgeon, Dr. Thomas Parisi, who had been flown in Wisconsin the day past, stood in Ferguson's hospital bed and used a black mark to indicate which knee wanted restore. "I'm ready," 56-year-old Ferguson advised him simply before he was taken to the operating room to switch his full knee. Not only would he obtain free remedy for this surgical procedure, but he would also obtain a verify when he arrived house.


The hospital prices of the American medical system are so high that it was of monetary significance to each extremely Milwaukee-trained Orthopedists and Mississippi patients to go away for a high-end personal Mexican hospital for surgical procedure.

Ferguson receives well being care by means of her husband's employer, Ashley Furniture Industries. The price to Ashley was lower than half the cost of knee alternative in the USA. Subsequently, its staff and dependents utilizing this feature aren’t paid or deductible from the procedure; The truth is, they receive a $ 5,000 cost from the company, and all their journey expenses are reimbursed.

Paris, who spent lower than 24 hours in Cancun, was paid $ 2,700, 3 times what he would get from major Medicare. one of many hospital costs in the US. Personal well being plans and hospitals typically negotiate cost schedules using the Medicare reimbursement price as a flooring.

Donna Ferguson negotiates with Milwaukee surgeon Dr. Thomas Paris before her knee alternative surgery at Galenia Hospital in Cancun.

Ferguson is certainly one of a whole lot. hundreds of People looking for cheaper care outdoors the USA annually, and many traveling to the Caribbean and Central America. An necessary consideration for them is whether the power supplies quality care.

The North American Specialty Hospital, generally known as NASH and based mostly in Denver, has organized, in a brand new translation of medical tourism, remedy for a couple of dozen American patients at Galenia Hospital. from 2017 onwards.

A graduate of the Mayo Clinic, Parisi is certainly one of about 40 US orthopedic surgeons who have signed with NASH to journey to Cancun on weekends to look after American patients. NASH claims that getting an American surgeon will alleviate some individuals's considerations about going overseas and persuade self-insured American employers to supply this feature to their staff in order to save cash whereas still offering top quality care.


NASH, a for-profit firm that fees a lump sum for each case, is paid by the employer or care supplier.

"It was a big outlet with an American doctor." Ferguson stated.

American surgeons work intently with a Mexican colleague and local nurses. NASH buys more abuse for American docs, who may be sued in america by unsatisfied patients.

“In the past, medical tourism has been mostly a blind leap into distant land, unknown hospitals. and unknown doctors with unknown supplies to a place free from medical malpractice in the United States, "said James Polsfut, NASH's CEO." We make the experience completely different and remove as much uncertainty as possible. "

Medical tourism has been around for decades. of course, but it has become more common in the last 20 years as more countries and hospitals around the world market themselves to foreigners.

Of course, there are risks associated with moving abroad, including headaches and the possibility of lower standards of care than at home. , patients are far from family and friends who can help – and it may be harder to sue providers from other countries.

Chasing lower costs

The high prices in American hospitals make it relatively easy to offer surgical discounts xia in Mexico: In the United States, knee replacement surgery costs an average of about $ 30,000 – sometimes double or triple – but in Galenia it is only $ 12,000, said Dr. Gabriela Flores Teón, medical director of the department.

The standard night fee for a hospital is $ 300 in Galenia, Flores said, compared to an average of $ 2,000 in US hospitals.


Other big savings are hospital costs. A medical device manufactured by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary in New Jersey and used in Ferguson's knee replacement surgery. The exact same implant he would have received at home costs $ 3,500 in Galenia, compared to nearly $ 8,000 in the United States, Flores said.

Galenia is accredited by the International Union of the Joint Committee, which sets hospital standards in the United States. To help doctors and patients feel comfortable with surgery, NASH and Galenia strive to exceed these standards. It included adding an extra autoclave to sterilize devices faster, using space-dressed gowns for doctors to reduce the risk of infection and to get patients to begin physiotherapy a few hours after knee or hip replacement surgery.

l. Glenn Cohen, a Harvard law professor and medical tourism expert, called the NASH model and a few similar operations "smart strategy" to attack some of the secured risks of medical tourism.

"It doesn't answer all the concerns, but I say it's a big step forward," he said. "It's a very good marketing strategy."

However, he added that patients should be concerned about whether the hospital is equipped in every situation, the skills of other members of the surgical team, and how their care is distributed when they return home.

Officials from Ashley Furniture, where Ferguson's husband Terry is a long-time employee, said they were impressed so far. The company offers an alternative to surgery abroad through NASH for free and with incentives.

"We've had an overwhelmingly positive response from past employees," said Marcus Gagnon, Ashley's director of global interests and health. , A Wisconsin-based company with 17,000 employees. Ferguson was the company's tenth insured and went to Cancun.

Donna Ferguson is rounded up for surgery at Galenia Hospital in Cancun, Mexico.

Ashley has also sent about 140 employees or dependents to a Costa Rican hospital, and together, overseas medical facilities have saved the company $ 3.2 million in health care costs since 2016, he said.


“We still save about half the cost after incentive fees and travel expenses. to pay for care in the United States, ”Gagnon stated. "It's been an ideal selection – not a magic signal – however an awesome selection."

NASH's strategy is skeptics.

"Constructing a well-known tradition abroad may be engaging to some American shoppers, but I don't contemplate it a sustainable business," said Irving Stackpole, Rhode Island health consultant. "It's not unusual for individuals who assume this to be docs, relations, who see this as a risky enterprise. "

Stackpole said that only a limited number of Americans were willing to travel – even with financial incentive -. overseas because most people think the treatment is not as good.

" You’re nuts to do that. "

Ferguson's knee started causing disruption two years ago, and last fall, a doctor recommended replacing it, and she is on the leg most of the day assembling furniture packages at work at American Furniture Manufacturing, Ekro, Miss Terry Ferguson mentioned Cancun or the condition he had heard about at work, the couple pay $ 300 a month in family health care fees.

"I had a pal say, 'You’re nuts for doing this,' however Dr. Parisi educated in Mayo, and you’ll be able to't do better. , ”Ferguson stated earlier than the surgical procedure. In addition, getting an American physician meant that if one thing went improper, he might convey an abuse case in the USA, he added.

Dr. Thomas Parisi will look at the patient after Donna Ferguson's surgical procedure. "Everything went well," your companion informed him.

IndusHealth, the administrator of Ashley's medical journey plan, arranged for him to have a physical examination, knee x-rays, and heart exams close to his house to ensure he was a very good candidate for surgical procedure. . He even acquired to see a dentist to ensure he had no infection that would make his restoration troublesome. Your companion reviewed a few of these books before Ferguson headed to Cancun.

The company also coordinated its medical care and made travel preparations, including the acquisition of passports, airline tickets, resorts and meals.

Mexico, a day earlier. during surgical procedure, Ferguson had extra X-rays and blood. After lunch, the couple met nurse Noemi Osorio, who reviewed Ferguson's schedule and introduced physiotherapy amenities. They later met with Paris and the rest of the medical group.


"My job is pretty easy," your companion informed him. "How you perform in the next five or ten years depends on how well you work with physiotherapy."

The surgery started at eight.20 the subsequent morning. In Cancun, Dr. Daniel Rios, a full-time orthopedic surgeon, worked with Paris. Rios, who had completed a fellowship at Boston's Brigham and Ladies's Hospital, checked with Ferguson a number of days after the surgery.

The surgery was over by 9:30 a.m. by 9:30 a.m. and by 11 a.m. she left the restoration space. Your associate checked him there. "Everything went well," he advised him earlier than leaving for the flight house at 2:30.

Your associate reported that a lack of English language expertise of some surgical employees induced "momentary delays", however a bilingual surgical assistant helped

Slightly over three hours after the surgery, Ferguson was in his hospital room and a physiotherapist got here in and helped. With the help of the walker, he took some effort to check his new era. The subsequent morning he was on crutches walking in the hallway and was dismantled before midday. He stayed at his lodge for 10 additional days in the bodily care twice a day in hospital.

"It's been a great experience," he stated two days after surgical procedure. "Even though I should pay, I come back here because it's just a different kind of treatment – they treat you like family."


This text was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, editorial. Unbiased program of the Kaiser Family Basis. The writer is a contributor to Kaiser Well being News.

Copyright 2019 – Reprinted with permission of the entire story, with hyperlinks to the unique story?>