Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Healthbase customer: From Indiana to India: Dyer woman seeks health care abroad

Healthbase customer: From Indiana to India: Dyer woman seeks health care abroad

Healthbase customer talks to nwi times regarding her upcoming spine surgery medical travel:

In less than a week, Erin Tacke will fly 8,500 miles for surgery that could be done five minutes from her house. Stuck with an insurance plan that won't cover the procedure and without $100,000 handy to pay out of pocket, the 37-year-old Dyer woman will have a minimally invasive spinal fusion in Bangalore, India. "I feel really good about the decision," she said. "It's a little scary, but that's OK." The fear is quelled by hope that the ever-present pain, pinching and numbness will be gone in hours and that a healthier life will come after physical therapy. The married mother of two, who also is a breast cancer survivor, is among the growing number of people seeking cheaper medical treatment overseas. She arranged the surgery through medical tourism company Healthbase Online Inc.

Healthbase started with hospitals in five countries and now works with 21. The company links patients with doctors who offer medical, cosmetic and dental procedures. Facilities and doctors must meet local and international standards. The company does cost and doctor comparisons, and the patient chooses one.

Tacke had a conference call with her neurosurgeon, who often travels to the U.S. to give medical talks and even did his clinical fellowship at Wayne State University in Detroit. "It's not like I picked a name out of a hat," Tacke said. Tacke, who had a discectomy in 2007, is covered by her self-employed husband's insurance policy. But the discectomy — the surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord — puts her in a "pre-existing condition" category. She signed a document stating medical treatment to her spine would not be covered. In 2009, the pain returned, and an MRI showed things had worsened. She tried cortisone shots and physical therapy, to no avail, and has leaned on narcotic painkillers and muscle relaxers since then.

She said going abroad for care is the best option for her. The 2010 major federal health care overhaul, often called Obamacare, does not fully take effect until 2014. "To be asked to hold on for two more years, it's not a way to live," she said.  Tacke said in the U.S. she would have paid up to $100,000, not including physical therapy, for her surgery. In India, it will cost $16,000, including the surgery, meals, airfare, transportation and the post-surgery hotel stay for her and her mother-in-law. The hospitals have a separate wing for international patients. The rooms have an extra bed for the patient's companion, as well as Internet access, TV and DVD player. Some people picture the impoverished parts of India when Tacke mentions her trip, but she is quick to show them websites for the modern hospital and upscale hotel where she will recover.

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