Shuffleboard in Puducherry


Steve Herzfeld managed an admirably inventive end-run around high healthcare costs for his Parkinson's- and Alzheimer's-afflicted parents. After in-home care was no longer possible, he priced American nursing homes, but found that the cheapest acceptable option was still $6,000. So he sent them to India. Quality elderly care in Puducherry cost less than his father's fixed income. According to the Guardian:

[In India, Herzfeld] could give his parents a much higher standard of care than would have been possible in the US for his father's income of $2,000 (£1,200) a month. In India that paid for their rent, a team of carers—a cook, a valet for his father, nurses to be with his mother 12 hours a day, six days a week, a physiotherapist and a masseuse—and drugs (costing a fifth of US prices), and also allowed them to put some money away…."In India, they really like older people," says Herzfeld, describing how the staff seemed to regard his parents as their own family.

Of course, the care was inexpensive because a couple thousand bucks goes further in Puducherry than it might in, say, Fort Lauderdale. Herzfeld, though, apparently believes that it was cheap because elderly care in America is greedily overpriced by providers. He vents about about healthcare and the profit motive: 

[Herzfeld] believes that India could teach the US and UK a lot about care of the elderly. "In America, healthcare is done for profit, so that skews the whole thing and makes it very inhuman in its values," he says.

I try not to begrudge a man his fantasies, but the idea that the nurses, valets, and masseuses of Puducherry were doing it all out of the goodness of their hearts—rather than the goodness of their paychecks—is condescending. It was simple outsourcing, not subcontinental altruism, that saved Steve Herzfeld so much money.

In Reason's May 2009 print edition, Ronald Bailey wrote about the outsourcing of hip replacement.