November 17, 2006



Exporting patients
by Jim Hightower

Good grief. Just when you think that globalization can't get anymore ludicrous, and that America's health care policies can't get anymore ridiculous, along comes corporate profiteers with a cockamamie scheme to globalize our health care!

Already, x-rays and medical tests are being off-shored to India, but this scheme goes farther, taking a flying leap into the surreal. Instead of sending your tests to India, they want to send you there. Corporations are now asking workers who need serious operations to fly 7,000 miles away to get their treatments done in low-cost Indian hospitals. I've heard of doctors being distant, but this is absurd.

Let's say you have a heart condition or need a back operation. Your company can get your surgery done in India 80% cheaper than your local hospital will do it. But do you really want to be loaded on a plane for a 20-hour flight to Bangalore? What sick person wants to be transported halfway around the globe to cope with a foreign culture?

And, what if something goes wrong? Who is responsible, and what are your rights under Indian laws? Interestingly, companies shipping ill workers there require the patients to sign a release that basically says you are "on your own" when it comes to medical liability problems.

Like it or not, however, corporations are pushing the offshore option. The U.S.-India Business Council exults that sending patients abroad promises to "deliver big advantages for both Indian and U.S. business." Well, now, isn't that just dandy for business? But — hello — what the hell about patients!?!

Luckily, the Steelworkers union has geared up to block the exportation of workers to hospitals in India, or elsewhere, calling the scheme a "shocking" abuse. It's time to fix America's sick health-care system — not ship our people abroad to get care. To learn more, call the Steelworkers' office: 205-951-1212.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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