In less than a week, I will be boarding a plane bound for the Grand Cayman Islands. Sound great? Yeah, but it’s not what you think. While I’m visiting one of the Caribbean’s most glorious islands known for its beaches and scuba diving, I’m not going for fun. I’m going as a medical tourist.
At this point in my story, colleagues and friends raise their eyebrows and want to know why. The answer’s simple. As a self-employed professional, I don’t have health insurance.
That wasn’t always the case. I had health insurance at one time through my marketing firm, and it sure came in handy when I was bucked off my horse twice in an hour. (Fractured pelvis, bruised ego). But these past few years, insurance premiums have been so expensive I took my chances on good genes and a healthy lifestyle. When my hip joints started to ache and I lost lateral flexion and strength, I tried to prolong the obvious (hip replacement surgery) by taking joint supplements, seeing a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. Then, as a last ditch effort, I had the nerves in my back and legs deadened through radio frequency ablation.
Nothing worked for long. I looked into the health insurance exchanges, but the wait to enroll was long and the cost of a policy was high.
Last spring, I was having lunch with a colleague who was the CEO for a multi-state urgent care company. When I mentioned my joint issue, he
suggested medical tourism. He explained that overseas hospitals offer various high demand services such as joint replacements at 20 to 25 percent of what U.S. hospitals/surgeons charge. Typically, procedures are offered as a package with all associated costs defined and transparent to the patient/customer.
How novel is that?
My colleague strongly recommended that route. I trusted his recommendation based on his experience starting the medical tourism division of a major U.S. health insurance company. He was also resigning his current position to work at a medical tourism hospital in Bangkok. To say he is a believer in the advantages is an understatement. Then I did my own research.
I reached out to Health City Cayman Islands. Although Health City is only four years old, the 105-bed hospital is accredited by the International Joint Commission and has infection and complication rates lower than comparable U.S. hospitals. And their orthopedic surgeons do hip replacement surgeries using the same surgical approaches and implants as do U.S. hospitals. The all-inclusive procedure – including all lab tests and post-surgery physical therapy, all transportation to and from the airport and all appointments – cost a fourth of what the same surgery would cost in Indianapolis – and likely most other U.S. cities.
Perhaps you wouldn’t put your lhealth in the hands of a non-American hospital. But being uninsured and suffering from daily pain and compromised mobility, I’m doing it. And if all goes well and I live to write about it, I’ll do the other hip early in 2019.
Right now, I have to admit it is a little scary. But when it’s done, I’ll be moving freely again, running around for work as I always do and riding horses again. Plus, I won’t have bankrupted myself in the process.
And where else would I get a pina colada after a tough physical therapy session? (Not included in the fee of course!)