Americans look to Asia for affordable heart, hip and other surgeries

WASHINGTON, Nov 16, 2006 (AFP) – When Wayne Steinard visited his doctor earlier this year he faced two options: either undergo open heart surgery in the US for 100,000 dollars or have it done in India for 6,700 dollars. “I chose India,” the 59-year-old uninsured building contractor from Florida told AFP, reflecting a growing trend among middle-class Americans who are heading overseas for complex medical treatment in answer to soaring medical costs at home.

Though Steinard was not particularly keen on going abroad for his urgently needed triple bypass, he said it was a choice between that or going bankrupt.

“I just couldn’t afford to have it done here (in the US),” he said. “And now that it’s over and done with, I would do it again without reservation.”

Helping accelerate this outsourcing trend are US corporations and insurance companies that are offering employees incentives to undergo invasive surgeries in first-class medical facilities in India, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia at third-world prices.

“This is the only magic bullet for an employer who wants to save 80 percent on health care costs,” said Jonathan Edelheit, vice president of United Group Programs, a company that administers health