Sick? Visit the Taj Mahal

by Indrajit Basu ,  Asia Times Online | 2006-06-09

KOLKATA - Thomas Hiland, a Denver, Colorado, real-estate broker, was diagnosed early this year with a heart condition that required complicated valve-replacement surgery. Given that his ailment would have given him less than a year to live if left untreated, Hiland hardly looked like one who would travel thousands of kilometers to a developing country for surgery. But speaking from his hospital bed in New Delhi, Hiland said that from an American's perspective, "India is the best place in the world to have heart surgery.

"I had considered two hospitals in the USA first," said Hiland, "but they took three weeks to give me an estimate of about [US]$140,000. Since my health-care insurance had lapsed, I found out that I would have had to wait for a year to get a new insurance carrier pay the cost. But my symptoms were progressively getting worse. I could neither wait that long nor afford the cost on my own."

That's when Hiland started doing research on the Internet about the possibility of getting treated outside the United States and chanced upon Delhi's Escort Heart Institute and Research Center, which claimed to be "one of the best health-care institutions in the world".  So Hiland sent an e-mail to Escort. "I remember sending the e-mail on a Friday evening, and within 12 hours I got a telephone call from Dr Naresh Trehan," the head doctor of Escort, said Hiland.

He said Escort offered him a total treatment package that included a visit to the Taj Mahal and other historic sights near Delhi at a price cheaper than wherever he had tried before. The valve-replacement operation, a luxury room in the hospital for 22 days, the return flight and the pleasure trip cost him about $14,000 - about one-tenth the cost he was quoted at home. Hiland said he had explored Thailand too, which he knew was another destination for cheaper health care, but "the best hospital there took longer to respond and quoted twice the price of Escort".



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