Dr. Michael J. O’Connell, PainCare, New Hampshire commented that Morgan Spurlock, roving special reporter for CNN, recently spent a great deal of time and resources exploring “medical tourism” in Thailand. Turns out it was less an investigation and more an anecdote reporting on his single personal experience.
Spurlock embedded himself as a patient at a large hospital there. A wealthy US developer has created a slick niche system which as Morgan discovered provides high quality focused care, easy access (once you have flown to Thailand), but of course cash only. The hospital targets upper middle class Americans who may have no insurance by design, or high deductible insurance (as with Obamacare and catastrophic policies). Morgan sprinkles his piece with repeated price comparisons between this Thai facility and those same services if one paid cash in the US. He undergoes a colonoscopy using a ‘swallowed’ camera, fairly extensive blood work, EKG and an MRI. For every service, the Thai price is considerably lower, and Morgan’s workup is all benign.
This piece is grossly unfair for several reasons:
- Those insured by more typical low deduct policies in this country could access these services at a US hospital for far less than the ‘cash price’ he indicated in Thailand.
- He doesn’t compute the risk of flying to Thailand – not inconsequential.
- The swallowed camera ‘colonoscopy’ technique is available in the US, but is seldom done here (except on unhealthy patients) since many scientific studies indicate that it misses many polyps. And of course if a polyp is found, it cannot be biopsied or removed; a colonoscopy is therefore eventually needed.
- What would have happened if something had gone awry in the course of his care? What if Morgan had suffered a heart attack? Does this hospital have cardiac services, stenting or bypass grafting? Simply a CCU?
This unfortunately simplistic and naive piece on medical tourism should not serve to discourage such competition, but rather encourage a fair and detailed analysis of that competition. Else Morgan Spurlock could be accused of mimicking that famously unscrupulous ‘documentarian,’ Michael Moore.