New Orleans A piece in the Times about health care in India caught my eye. Recently, we had been pricing health insurance in India and the quality of health care there because we have staff there now and thought we needed to get up to snuff. Finding that we could offer good health insurance for between $30 and $50 USD in India had been an eye opener! We were also impressed with some of the reports we were hearing about some of the available facilities as well, so we were less worried about our staff stationed in India.
The piece though told the story of a worker in North Carolina who was going to fly over to Delhi to have the “plush” (as they describe it) Indraprastha Apollo Hospital pull his gall bladder and work on a shoulder problem and then his employer was going to not only pay his plane ticket but also split the cost of the savings with him. The worker thought it was a good deal. An entire company exists to try to build this market called IndUSHealth, not surprisingly. The United Steelworkers, his union, thought better of it and put the kabash to the whole thing, not surprisingly.
There were clearly unresolved issues like what happens if something went wrong and how would it be resolved and how would the worker be made whole in rupees rather than dollars, which would not be the same (see above).
On a deeper level this is a side of globalization that the services industry has not really confronted fully. There are the occasional reports of people flying to Mexico or Buenos Aires for cosmetic surgery because it is so much cheaper. Now we have the notion of more fundamental surgery being done at steep price discounts. We have drug sales in Canada. I wonder if there is an “off shore” health care services industry, perhaps even a little closer than India, that in this age of mass communication and speedy travel would actually threaten pricing and provision of health care services, particularly on voluntary matters that were less life and death?
The USW did the right thing here without a doubt. But, we better think this whole thing through and see where the ripples stop once this rock hits the water.
October 12, 2006