Homemaker Khatoon Reza, 55, felt acute chest pain and upon investigation, it was found that she had coronary artery disease, which entailed the removal of the accumulated plaque in her arteries. Though her bypass surgery costs were principally covered under her medical insurance, yet she had to pay to out-of-network medical service providers. She did not have this information beforehand and was taken by surprise with the amount she had to pay out of her own pocket.
Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks a few months ago, Shadab Mohammad, 49, signed a pile of consent forms. A finance professional at a large consumer goods company, Shadab was blindsided at the total anaesthesia and surgery bills that he received from the hospital. Though he had done some calculations, he was shocked at how divergent the total tally was. Though he had regained his neck movement, his financial health was put to risk. Worse, he had no choice and no negotiating power.
Khatoon and Shadab are among the large number of people who either do not seek full information prior to a critical surgery, or become victims of expenses related to surgical care that have a devastating impact on their finances. Notably, while people in high-income countries face minimal financial risks arising out of surgical care, the situation is alarming in middle-income and low-income countries.
Surgical costs and the negative financial impact
Because of the typically high costs associated with surgical care, paying for surgery out-of-pocket, commonly known as self-pay, can be incredibly expensive and, in most cases, unaffordable too. As the tables below indicate, the risk of catastrophic/impoverishing expenditure for surgical care can have a severe negative impact on household finances, often pushing the masses into poverty. People living in low- and middle-income countries are especially vulnerable as they find themselves at the confluence of relatively low incomes on the one hand and high surgical costs on the other. This is in stark contrast to the wealthy who face no such financial risks because of their affluence.
Risk of catastrophic expenditure for surgical care (% of people at risk)
Risk of impoverishing expenditure for surgical care (% of people at risk)
* Figures for 2013; worldbank.org
Catastrophic expenditure is defined as direct out-of-pocket payments for surgical and anaesthesia care exceeding 10 per cent of the total income. Impoverishing expenditure is defined as direct out-of-pocket payments for surgical and anaesthesia care that have the potential to drive people below a poverty threshold (using a threshold of $1.25 PPP/day).
Medical tourism to the rescue
In the face of growing financial risks associated with surgery, one can easily reduce this risk by opting for surgery in international destinations. Popularly referred to as medical tourism, the biggest benefit that the patient can have out of this is true affordability. For instance, surgery in countries like India, Thailand, Singapore or Malaysia is almost always less expensive – as much as 75 per cent less than what the procedure would cost in the US, and that too with similar medical outcomes. In addition to benefits associated with affordability, the attractiveness of these global medical tourism destinations on international patients is anchored on several other factors:
- One, high quality medical staff credentials; in some cases, the surgeons are themselves trained in outstanding American facilities
- Two, highly accredited hospitals
- Three, state-of-the-art medical equipment and infrastructure
- Four, teams exclusively assigned to international patients; in some hospitals, translation services are also available
- Five, robust post-operative care dispensed by well-trained staff
- Six, minimal wait times through quicker patient admission
Hence, considering the immense benefits of medical tourism, one can now access high-quality surgical care at costs that are truly affordable. With medical tourism, surgery can be well within the reach of most.
Insurance can also help unlock quality surgical care for most
Though there are multiple benefits of health insurance, the one that can be singled-out as truly the most useful is its ability to enhance mass access to quality medical care.
Today, there exists a large number of insurance plans and policies that help provide a protective cover for a vast spectrum of healthcare needs. Thanks to competition and technology-enabled lower costs, insurance plans are affordable while providing a cover that is large enough to take care of most hospital expenses, without the patient having to pay much out of his pocket. Furthermore, some insurance companies even pay for medical tourism for necessary procedures, thus providing the patient with dual benefits. Moreover, top-up insurance policies are also beneficial as they help extend the medical cover and prevent the need for self-pay. Thus, health insurance represents an effective route to access quality medical care.
A word of caution: You should select your health insurance provider after careful consultations. The key points to note include an understanding of what is covered in the insurance policy, whether insurance is cashless or reimbursable and how large is the insurance provider’s hospital network.
Useful ideas on lowering your surgical costs
Some of the most common types of surgeries include appendectomy, breast biopsy, carotid endarterectomy, cataract surgery, coronary artery bypass, free skin graft, hysterectomy, low back pain surgery and mastectomy, etc. It is always a good idea to determine how you can best lower the cost of your surgery before you even have the procedure. First, it is always better to ask questions to those who have undergone a surgical procedure before. This will provide you with first-hand and first-rate information on what to expect before you yourself undergo the procedure.
Furthermore, you should also find out where the procedure will cost you the least, without hampering the outcome in any way. Here, a reputed medical tourism service provider can be of significant help as they would be able to offer consultation on options from all the different medical tourism destinations of the world. Furthermore, this company would also be able to help you in choosing the right insurance product as surgical care requires the services of everyone providing care, including from anaesthesia to the surgeon, to the hospital and pharmacy, which means that these have to be in-network for your insurance to provide the maximum benefit to you.
GD Assist is a longstanding medical tourism company with a robust hospital network in the top medical tourism destinations of India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Now GD Assist is offering EMI facility to its valuable clients. The GD Assist clients can now get their treatment done without leaving a scar on their wallet. This is another way to take care of your financial health.
So if you have any queries on surgical care or on any other healthcare-related issues, we invite you to get in touch with us.
After all, who doesn’t want to lead a pain-free life.
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