Sending Patients Packing

by Julie Appleby and Julie Schmit ,  USA TODAY | 2006-08-09

Would you travel to India for a cut-rate heart bypass? How about Thailand for a hip replacement? Some uninsured and those with skimpy insurance have taken the risk, leading to what promoters say is a growing trade in "medical tourism."

Now, companies that help arrange such travel are eying a far bigger market: U.S. employers who want to save money on their health care costs.

The appeal is obvious: Heart surgeries and hip replacements in such countries as India, Thailand and Mexico can be had for less than one-third the cost in the USA.

At the same time, medical costs in the USA are rising rapidly, with no end in sight.

"Companies have reached that point of being pinned to the wall faster than we thought," says Rajesh Rao, CEO of IndUShealth, which helps arrange travel and medical care abroad.

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