Sunday, August 4, 2013

Paying Until it Hurts and Medical Fantasies

The cost of medical care in the US is repeat theme in this blog, primarily because I find it outrageous.  I keep bringing it up because the New York Times is running a series on the cost of common procedures in the US. The most recent article is in the paper today and it caught my attention yet again.

The first article was on colonoscopies, the second on childbirth and today's on hip replacements.  The links to the articles are below:


The headline from today’s article concerns a Michael Shopenn who was turned down by his insurance company for a hip replacement due to a pre-existing condition. Mr. Shopenn started looking outside the United States for treatment. He found a hospital outside Brussels that charged only $13,660.  The cost in Belgium was about 6x less than in the US, where the typical charge is $78,000.
This got me thinking - this is purely my imagination running wild about how I might structure my cancer care if I had the ability and the means to do it.  My medical costs, outrage, business background and love of travel is fueling this fantasy.

My insurance covers between $2,500 and $8,500 for my monthly Sandostatin shots.  Let’s just say for example, that I could get a Sandostatin shot anywhere outside of the US for between $417 and $1,417 (the insurance coverage prices above divided by 6).    If I could get my insurance to pay half of what they are paying for the drug in the US ($1,250 - $4,250), I could find places to do my shots and  then pay for my airfare and hotel with the leftover funds.  I could also include my spouse in the cost but to be fair, we would pay for his travel expenses out of our own pockets. 

We could have great travels with trips all over the world while handling my cancer care.  Since I know that my shots are going to be every 28 days, I could book these trips well in advance to take advantage of early booking discounts.  It would be a win-win for both me and my company’s cost of insurance.  I probably don’t have enough vacation to do this for all 12 months but even if I did it for 6 months, the cost savings to my company would be substantial. 

Some places where I could surely get cheaper Sandostatin shots would be Switzerland, UK, France, Thailand, Belgium, Canada, India, Argentina and Australia, among others. I’m sure I could find some great things to see and do before or after my doctor appointments.

I’m guessing that most doctors in the US would not approve of a patient getting only half or none of the shots at their location.  They would not want to be responsible for anything that could happen when I got the shot elsewhere.  My company and their insurance carrier would never agree to this either.  Oh well, it was fun to think about.  Back to reality!