Insurance Troubles Send Weight Loss Surgery Patients Overseas

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Insurance Troubles Send Weight Loss Surgery Patients Overseas

Here in the U.S., insurance nightmares, rising healthcare costs and a slumping economy are making it more difficult for many people to afford weight loss surgery. As a result, the medical tourism industry is taking off, as specialty companies help patients arrange for their surgery outside of our nation’s borders.

Of all the destinations favored by medical tourists, none is hotter right now than India, where patients can undergo a Lap-Band®, gastric bypass, duodenal switch or gastric sleeve procedure in a U.S.-accredited hospital for up to one-fourth the cost of the same operation back in the States, according to a company called WorldMedAssist, which bills itself as “medical tourism experts”. In fact, medical tourism is expected to be a global $2 billion dollar market by 2012. In addition to the cost savings, patients are attracted to the idea of medical travel because of shorter wait times for surgery, personalized help with the logistics, and in many cases luxury accommodations during recovery.

Of course, saving 75% on the cost of your weight loss surgery is definitely tempting – but money isn’t everything when your life is at stake! After all, medical tourists who travel to locations outside the U.S. for treatment – including Mexico, Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines – have little way of knowing whether their doctor’s experience or accreditation is comparable to a skilled bariatric surgeon here in the U.S., or whether the surgical facility is up to U.S. standards.

There is also virtually no pre-surgery care or post-op follow-up. And, because American doctors have no way of knowing the quality of medical treatment provided overseas, the majority of bariatric surgeons here in the U.S. simply refuse to provide post-operative care for patients who have had weight loss surgery done outside the country.

So, whether you are seeking weight loss surgery in India or elsewhere outside the U.S., the rule of caveat emptor – “let the buyer beware” – continues to apply. Be careful, and make sure you do your homework before you get on the plane.

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