Passage to India for Healthcare

Man, I loved playing softball. When I had the chance to jump into an over 55 league and play again, despite being 40 something. I took it. During my 3rd practice, I heard a loud pop as my foot slipped when I went for a simple ground ball. I collapsed on the field .. note I still made the out at first .. but had to have my over 55 cohorts help me up and off the field. I hobbled home, iced my knee and said my prayers that it would be better in a couple of days. Unfortunately, days went by and it wasn't, which was of major concern to me since I did not have any health insurance.

When it was clear there was something majorly wrong, I went to the only doctor I could get into see without insurance .. he was a chiropractor he said I needed to see someone in orthopedics. After 5 calls to orthopedic docs who told me they would not see me because I did not have health insurance. I found one that would. It was $245 which had to be paid in full before I could see the doctor. I was in pain and said fine.

When I arrived for my appointment on crutches, a person who appeared to be an office manager came in and started asking the 'window person' loudly why there was a self pay on the schedule .. all calls were suppose to be screened .. they didn't do self pay and on and on... I wasn't sure why my money was any less good than an insurance companies at that point .. after all I paid up front and more money than they were getting from the insurance company .. but I keep my mouth shut, I was really in a lot of pain and just wanted to see a professional. The doc gave me a referral for an MRI and a place to get it at a reasonable price (about $500, then a couple hundred for it to be interpreted) and a place where I could get a brace and try that for a couple weeks to see if I could get by without having any surgery. I got the MRI .. again paid up front, got a cd copy for my records and paid for the MRI reading report to be faxed to the doctor. When I followed up with the doctors office, after the results had been sent to them, they kept telling me the doc would call me later. I called every day for four days, only to be told something different and that I would be called back with the results. The last time I called, I was told that I would have to make an appointment for him to tell me the results and that it would that would be $285 up front!! I was livid. I already paid for the results to be put in report form, and he wanted me to pay $285 for him to tell me what they said!! I asked to at least speak to the doctor about the matter and was refused the opportunity to do so.

My mother told me about a story she saw on 60 minutes on people going to other countries for health care & suggested I call and see if there wasn't some place close by in Mexico that I could go to for help.

I dropped and email to one of these companies at about 10 pm. I had a call from there representative by 10:30 pm. I sent the images from the CD I had to him via email and within 36 hours I had talked with a doctor in Panama who had read my MRI & one in India. I had torn both my acl and meniscus. I called the local hospitals and clinics trying to see if I could arrange surgery on a self pay basis. I could, if I had a doctor who would do the surgery. The figures they gave me were around $8000 higher than the out of country cost and that was without the doctors charges and only for 1.5 hours in the hospital. I think I spoke to them on a Thursday. By the next Wednesday I was on a plane to India and had surgery Friday morning.

It was all a whirlwind. I spent 10 days in an Indian hospital. 1 day prior to surgery and 9 after. In the 9 days after I received physical therapy 2x per day. The total cost was around $2700 (without airfare). The care I got was amazing.

Some of the aides in India

It wasn't all peaches and cream though. The Indian doc recommended I stay in the country 15 days after surgery. My person only booked me for 9 and despite all efforts on the Indian & US side, I could not get my tickets changed. I had to fly against medical advice or stay another 20 days. I flew .. it was absolutely horrible .. Lufthansa was horrid but I survived.

Little did I know that my troubles getting back were just the beginning. When I did make it back, I called the local PT companies with my doctors orders for PT from India only to be told that they would not accept doctors orders from out of the country. Time and time again I heard the same story. (We are just talking about PT .. lift your leg, bend your knee, etc!) So I tried to get and appointment with a doctor so I could get an order for the therapy that I was told was crucial to me being able to regain full functionality of my knee. No doctor would see me. After 9 days with no therapy I called the company that set me up for the surgery for help. They were able to get a US doctor to fax orders for me to get PT for the state I was only going to be in for a couple more days. When I got to the state where I was actually living, I again faced the same problems because this state didn't just want a US doctors order but a US doctor from their state. I finally found a private PT that basically risked their license to get me through the rest of my rehab.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have just stayed 3 more weeks in India and received all the healthcare I needed before returning to the United States.

I read several blog posts today on Blogher about healthcare in the US. Several bloggers stated that they didn't feel universal health care was something that our government should be involved in. While I do understand that bigger government is not always the best answer to every social problem, I think that our government should at a minimum assure that every citizen has access to healthcare. I was denied health insurance and then denied care in the richest country in the world for not having insurance. Insurance companies make millions, but are charged less by providers than I am. Illegal immigrants can go to a hospital for emergency care and have their bills written off. If I went to an ER, I would have to be bankrupt before my bill would be written off and then my credit would be ruined for years.  Even then hospital ER's are only charged with stabilizing a person and providing life saving care, not necessarily diagnosing or correcting a health issue.

Our healthcare system isn't working for a growing number of people in this country. The care I received in India was better than the care my brother received for the same operation in the US. 4 of 5 of people I know who had operations in the states within 6 months of mine caught staph infections at the hospital... 2 of them died, one being only 44. My grandmother spent 3 days in the hospital before they gave her insulin... despite the intake paperwork showing she was insulin dependent. They only noticed after we kept asking what her blood sugar level was and why it was so high. Additionally, she got to a point where she could not feed herself (they knew this) .. yet they would leave a tray & come pick it up again without it being touched if a family member didn't make it in on time to feed her. In India, a dietician came in after every meal to talk about what & how much I ate and what changes I would like for the next meal.

Healthcare for our kids is even worse. We have improved over the past couple of years yet an infant born in Cuba still has a better chance at survival than one in the US. Cuba! Did I mention that we are the richest country in the world and that our insurance companies make millions?? My hope is that whomever we elect as our next president that 'we, the people', really do hold them accountable and demand change in our healthcare system this time. Change that insures that all have access to affordable care.