Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hip surgery in India? Insurance may pay

PlanetHospital was featured in the article Hip Surgery in India? Insurance may pay on

Top-notch care, a fraction of the cost That’s certainly been the case for Mason, 43, whose $20,000 body lift in Panama last July included about $7,500 for surgery to remove a large flap of skin from her abdomen, a procedure called a panniculectomy. Because the excess flesh led to potentially dangerous skin infections, the surgery was deemed a medically necessary procedure, one that could be covered by her federal Blue Cross health insurance plan. 

Mason paid the bill herself for the rest of the surgery, including breast augmentation and thigh lifts. Because her surgeries would have totaled $50,000 to $75,000 back home, she contracted with Planet Hospital, a California-based medical tourism service, to research the alternatives abroad.

Planet Hospital, which also arranged care for Ryerson and Davies, has been offering medical tourism services since 2002. Of the nearly 2,000 patients they've served since  2006, nearly three dozen have had some or all of their care covered by insurance, said Rudy Rupak, president and founder.

“It’s outrageous here, the cost of medical care,” Mason said. Additionally, many U.S. doctors seem to have forgotten that they’re providing a service, added Mason, who described one plastic surgeon she interviewed as “an egotistical ass.” 

Not so with Dr. Louis Picard-Ami, a Florida-certified plastic surgeon who also practices in Panama. After checking out his credentials and the hospital’s safety record, Mason decided to go ahead with the surgery.

Not only was Picard-Ami technically proficient, he was kind and the amenities were luxurious, said Mason. Her hospital room was as lavish as any elegant hotel suite and her care included round-the-clock services of a private nurse.

“I just think that others need to be aware that they are able to have a safe procedure done out of the country for a price at a third the cost,” she said.

Ryerson, 61, said her private Blue Cross plan paid 80 percent of a $7,000 hip resurfacing surgery in Chennai, India, that would have been about $55,000 in the U.S. — if she could get it at all.
In 2006, the hip resurfacing device necessary for her surgery had just been approved for U.S. use by the federal Food and Drug Administration and not many domestic doctors had experience with it. Dr. Vijay Bose, her U.K.-certified surgeon in India, had performed the surgery more than 1,100 times.
“Doctors here didn’t know what they didn’t know and I didn’t want to be a guinea pig," she said.
While she was there, Ryerson also had cosmetic surgery and dental work done at her own expense.

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