Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Exactly The Wrong Idea: Senate Health Care Plan Would Forbid Medicaid Treatment Abroad

Sherman Oaks, California

The private sector is embracing medical tourism as a way to obtain quality health care at a steep discount.

Simultaneously, the U.S. Senate would forbid the treatment of Medicaid patients at hospitals or clinics abroad -- no matter how much money would be saved.

Medicaid is a federal program which provides health care to poor people. The U.S. government created the program, makes the rules and provides funding. The actual delivery of health care is handled by the states, and, in theory, the states can experiment with different procedures.

"But don't experiment too much" seems to be the Senate's line.

Section 6505 of the massive Senate health care bill would prohibit states from using Medicaid money to pay for treatment abroad.

The Senate bill would add a section reading:
A State plan for medical assistance must . . . (80) provide that the State shall not provide any payments for items or services provided under the State plan or under a waiver to any financial institution or entity located outside of the United States.
As written, Section 6505 is a broad protectionist measure which would insulate U.S. companies from international competition. Indian banks couldn't be used to settle accounts, a Canadian claims processing firm would be a forbidden foreign "entity," and putting non-critical patients on a plane for cheap surgeries in Thailand or the Philippines would be a loud no-no. (Plus, the fact that the feds have enacted almost 80 previous stipulations indicates a lack of flexibility from the Centre.)

This is the opposite of what a sane health care reform should be about. Protectionism would turn the American health care industry into a terrestrial version of the domestic air travel industry -- a bunch of inefficient and indifferent dinosaurs, safe in their cocoon, providing sub-standard services to a captive audience.

And, with garbage like this in the bill, I don't want to hear another sanctimonious word from Washington about how health care reform is necessary to "bend the cost curve" or "save money" or "reduce the percent of GDP spent on health care."

Section 6505 -- like the rest of this health care reform moment -- is about forcing people to buy something they don't want.

Pictured: Student nurses at the Christian University of Thailand.



Anonymous Mitchell said...

Wonder how many surgical procedures are performed annually at CUT?

12:30 AM  

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