We need a medical system that takes full advantage of the same market forces that are driving down the cost of computers, clothing and home furnishings — namely globalization and technology. Medical tourism is a prime example of how globalization can drive down health care costs. A hip replacement costing $50,000 in the U.S. runs a scant $7,000 in India. The $144,000 heart bypass surgery in the U.S. magically shrinks to $25,000 in Costa Rica and $5,200 in India. Some U.S. insurers have instituted medical tourism programs as a solution to the high cost of medical service. Wellpoint teamed with Healthbase, a medical travel company, to enable clients to access drastically lower-cost alternatives for elective procedures such as joint replacement and spinal fusion in accredited hospitals in India.

Globalization also is making available medical marvels not yet offered in the U.S. Americans are traveling to China for stem cell treatments for retinal degeneration and cerebral palsy, and to Peru for similar treatments for Parkinson’s.

Technologies such as telemedicine are enabling patients to consult with and be diagnosed and treated by lower-cost physicians and technicians in India, Costa Rica and Mexico over a live, remote hook-up. Specialists also can remotely monitor patients’ vital signs.

In addition, robot-assisted surgery allows for high quality medical care while minimizing delivery costs. Already, surgeons perform remote surgery without physically being in the operating room or very often even in the same country. Surgical robots are used for gynecologic, colorectal, prostate, throat cancer surgeries, as well as bariatric surgery, angioplasty and bypass surgery.

We also must dramatically increase the physician pool by opening up the numbers admitted to U.S, medical schools . And we should let people retain the right to keep their current private health insurance programs instead of joining Medicare, regardless of their age.

Given the freedom to choose, medical customers will select the providers, services and technologies that will deliver the best care at the lowest cost. Americans have the right to partake of the “fountain of youth” promised by the emerging medical breakthroughs in fields such as genetics, stem cell science and bionics. Government and private plans must facilitate, not obstruct, access to these medical miracles.



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