Who knew? Entrepreneurship and competition reduces health care costs quite dramatically as Dr. Devi Shetty has proven in India. Shetty opened and now runs a chain of 21 medical centers in India in which physicians offer complicated medical treatments as little as a 1/50th their cost in the United States. As Bloomberg reports:
By trimming costs with such measures as buying cheaper scrubs and spurning air-conditioning, he has cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to 95,000 rupees ($1,583), half of what it was 20 years ago, and wants to get the price down to $800 within a decade. The same procedure costs $106,385 at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"It shows that costs can be substantially contained," said Srinath Reddy, president of the Geneva-based World Heart Federation, of Shetty's approach. "It's possible to deliver very high quality cardiac care at a relatively low cost."
How high quality? The Economist reported:
Narayana Hrudayalaya reports a 1.4% mortality rate within 30 days of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one of the most common procedures, compared with an average of 1.9% in the United States in 2008, according to data gathered by the Chicago-based Society of Thoracic Surgeons.
Oddly Bloomberg continues:
One positive unforeseen outcome may be that many of the cost-saving approaches could be duplicated in developed economies, especially in the U.S. under health reform.
"Global health-care costs are rising rapidly and as countries move toward universal health coverage, they will have to face the challenge of providing health care at a fairly affordable cost," said the World Heart Federation's Reddy, a New Delhi-based cardiologist who is also president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
This observation misses the point that entrepreneurship and competition is how Shetty was able to drive costs down. Government run universal health care is the opposite of that.
Still, the good news is that medical tourism will be a way for Americans to do an end run around ObamaCare.
Addendum: See also my colleague Jim Epstein's sharp Reason TV video that asks, "Can Medical Tourism Save Us From Obamacare?"