Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Outsourcing Medical Procedures from Canada

Waiting times for many medical procedures in Canada have become very long.* As a result, some people are engaging in medical tourism, traveling to India as tourists and, oh, by the way, having a knee replacement while they're there. [thanks to Jack for the pointer]

It's not a new concept. People from the Middle East have been seeking medical treatment in India for more than a decade. Lately, though, the number of Westerners coming here has started to pick up.

... A growing number of Canadians are choosing to sidestep the country's infamous waiting lists and jet to India for speedy medical treatment. They're joining thousands of foreigners -- mostly from the United States, Europe and the Middle East -- who have travelled here to get well. It's called medical tourism, because many foreign patients choose to recover at posh resorts.

Drawn by fast service and surgery for a third of what it would cost in the United States, more than 150,000 foreigners flew to India last year for joint replacements, heart bypasses, laser eye surgery and facelifts.

'You've got to understand: It's not the Vancouver General or the Toronto General. It's a different country, and that's the bottom line. But I've got a new knee and I don't have to wait until June of next year,' [said one person who was pleased with the experience].

It's not for everyone. The long flights, crushing crowds and frequent blackouts deter many. And then there's the safety issue: Many Western doctors don't like the prospect of Canadians going under the knife in India.

But with Canadian operating rooms backed up, some feel they have no choice.
It should come as no surprise that when faced with a trade-off between safety and subsidies on the one hand and timeliness on the other hand, some people opt for timeliness.

For a different take on medical tourism, see this piece by Alex at Marginal Revolution, which mentions less of the drawbacks that are indicated in the above quotation.

*BrianF attributes the growing waiting lists to some really dumb reductions in medical school admissions, beginning a year ago, because some policy makers actually bought the nonsense about asymmetric information and supply-induced demand as the cause of sky-rocketing medical costs for the province of Ontario.
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