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Why an American medical professional chose NTUH for medical service

  Last Update:2014-10-20

Unaffordable Healthcare for Americans

Unaffordable medical premiums and fees are the main reasons Americans are forced to find treatment abroad. Recently an American patient flew directly to Taiwan so as to receive medical treatment from NTU hospital. The patient was very satisfied with his medical treatment and also appreciated the opportunity to experience a different culture. This is indeed a true case of medical tourism. Wishing to share his experience with others, he provided feedback in his letter—a letter which also highlights some aspects of the American healthcare system. His letter is provided below (in its entirety):
It helps to have a fairly good understanding of how the healthcare system in the US works. Private health insurance plans in the US generally have a yearly deductible and copayments, along with the monthly premiums. Most deductibles range between $2500 and $10,000 (I will only use US dollars in my discussions), mine is $7500. My copayments are 20%, with the normal range for most health insurance plans being between 10% and 30%. I have to pay the first $7500 of my medical expenses (except for simple office consultations, which cost $25 each) each year. After that, the insurance company will pay 80% of the medical expenses and I will just have to pick up 20% of the bills. My monthly insurance payments are around $150, and this is quite low because I have never been sick and don't have any chronic diseases, don't smoke, etc. For my age, I have the lowest rates you can get. Monthly rates go up as you age, if you have been sick before, or have some risk factors (smoking, etc).

After much research, I found that hernia repair surgery in the US ranges from around $5000 to $15,000. I think that typical costs are generally around $8k to $12k. You have to remember that costs here can be vary widely in different parts of the country, and even in the same cities they can be quite different. The quality of care can be vastly different too. In my area ( Texas), costs would of been in that $8k to $12k range. If I would of had surgery here, I would have paid the first $7500 of costs, and then 20% of the cost that was over $7500. It would of probably been in the range of $8000 to $9000 or so. You can never really know until after it is over because of possible complications and individual patient variation.

However, I knew that I could get surgery done at many locations overseas for less than that, and maybe a lot less than that. I also happen to be a scientist. I like to explore, visit new places, and see new things. Pretty typical for a scientist, as they are generally curious. So it was fairly easy for me to want to visit a new country, and get my surgery done there, if it could be done for the same or less than what my costs would of been in the US.

There are also many millions of people in the US who might not be interested in sight seeing, but would be interested in treatments outside the US for purely financial reasons alone. Remember that hernia surgery is pretty simple stuff, and one of the less expensive operations that people can have. People who have health insurance and need serious operations in the US can be hit with bills over $20,000, and sometimes vastly more. That is with them just paying for their deductible and copayments, not the entire cost. Costs truly are outrageous for many, if not most serious types of treatments (cancer, heart surgery, joint replacement, etc). And you can easily see that people without insurance, maybe 40 million or more people in the US, just can't get treatments that will cost them tens of thousands of dollars. They generally just don't have that kind of money.

So basically, because of the incredible cost of healthcare in the US for all but the simplest of treatments, treatment overseas is a legitimate option, and sometimes the preferred option, for many people. Even people with health insurance. More and more people are looking into treatment overseas every day. As the general population gains more and more information, I believe the number of people from the US going overseas will go up a lot. It is just a matter of them having all the information they need to make a good decision. Probably questions about the quality of healthcare overseas is the number one thing that will worry people.

Why I chose Taiwan and NTUH for medical treatment
So my only real concern was about finding a destination with high quality medical care. Having previously worked in the medical field for around a decade (I was a board certified Radiation Oncology Physicist, DABR-TRP, and trained at MD Anderson Cancer Center), I knew that there were many countries around the world where you could get high quality care. Many of those countries don't necessarily cater to medical tourists though. Singapore, India, and Thailand have been promoting medical tourism for quite a few years. Taiwan and Korea seem to be trying to promote medical tourism now also. I looked into all these places and a few others.

While I know that you can get good quality care in India and Thailand if you go to the right hospitals, I wasn't really interested in going to some of the third world type countries that are somewhat less developed. It is just a matter of personal preference. I was interested in going to a more technologically advanced country. That left basically Singapore, Korea, and Taiwan. I had previously lived in Korea for around 4 months (many years ago when I was in the US Air Force) and actually enjoyed my time there. But since I kind of wanted to see a new place, along with not liking cold weather very much, I eliminated Korea from consideration. My research showed me that both Singapore and Taiwan had very good national healthcare systems. Both also have well educated populations and are very technologically advanced societies. Both Taiwan and Singapore are also very clean and safe societies, and that was important to me, in comparison to places like India and Thailand (and a few others). Singapore is pretty small though, and I wanted to get out and see some stuff. Taiwan is actually a pretty large island and has a wide variety of things to see and do. To me, Taiwan just seems to be a better tourist destination.

So that is how I chose Taiwan. I then did some research on universities, medical schools, and hospitals in Taiwan. National Taiwan University is generally considered the best university in your country (it was also on some lists of best universities worldwide), and NTU medical school and hospital are among the best, if not the best, in Taiwan. I trained at a research based academic hospital (MDACC) and those types of institutions generally have the best quality patient care in the US. More than likely it is pretty much the same in Taiwan. It is the job of the physicians, and the other professional staff, to always keep up with the latest advancements in medicine at academic research institutions. I believe that the other major hospitals in Taiwan that have international patient services (and there are three or four in the Taipei area) would have also delivered good quality care. I just felt that, more than likely, NTUH would deliver the best care. I was very pleased with my care at NTUH, and would recommend your hospital to anyone.

As stated above, my expenses for surgery in the US would of probably been around $8000 or so. My medical expenses at NTUH were around $2000. Of course you have to add in travel costs to get a real comparison. Including travel, I spent around $ 4000 in total. So my overall expenses were around half of what I would have spent in the US. I also really enjoyed my stay there, as I got to see a new country and experience a new culture.

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