Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Medical Costs Outside the U S

LaGuardia, Venezuela
Medical care is always scary, but especially so if you happen to be in a foreign country and need something done. Most of my medical care has been in the States, but I have had medical procedures done in two other countries where I happened to be when I needed something done. I needed to be a hospital patient in both cases, luckily only on an out-patient basis meaning I was in and out on the same day.

The first was in Trinidad, a simple procedure and I had been to this doctor numerous times during my visits to Trinidad - I liked him and trusted his judgment. I can’t say it was enjoyable because when I woke up in the recovery room, I was freezing, no blankets. However, I can’t say anything bad about the care I received there.

I also had imaging and lab tests done there. In the States, we go to the doctor to get the order, go to the x-ray facility and then go back to the doctor for him to tell us what’s wrong, or not. In Trinidad, we get the order, go to the imaging facility, and then sit in the waiting room for them to develop the film and print the reports and they hand it to us. Great, no visit to the doctor unless we think there’s a problem or we need further discussion with him. This saves time, money and makes much more sense. Same with the lab, although I had to go back on another day since the blood testing took more time to complete.

All of these services, and medications, cost way less than it would have in the States. You can actually afford to go to a doctor and pay for it in these places.

My second experience was in Puerto LaCruz, Venezuela. I went to the hospital for checkin, much more complicated since I had to go through their translator, my meager Spanish was not enough. They were great in the recovery room, they had a nice blanket on me AND a hose pushing heated air under it! I was nice and warm, very comfortable. Again, this was done at a fraction of what it would cost in the States.

Medications were easy to obtain in Venezuela also, and cost only a tiny percent of the money we fork out in the States for the same thing. Certain medications that require prescriptions in the States were available over the counter there also.

A cruiser woman I knew was having treatment for cancer in Puerto La Cruz while I was there. Her husband told me that they had gone back to the States for a visit and checked in with their former doctor. He went over all the information they had brought back with them and told them that the treatment she was getting in Venezuela was the same that he would have ordered for her if she had been treated there in the States. And way more affordable.

If people go out of the States to get medical care and receive the same level of care we have here, why are our costs so high? The cost of insurance is outrageous and I don’t think it’s going to get any better. Doctors pay amazing amounts for malpractice insurance because they are open for lawsuits for any reason a lawyer might think of. Drug companies say the cost of medications is high because of the research and development, not to mention advertising, of any new drug. If that’s the case, why are the same medications available from the same companies in these other countries at a fraction of the cost? And yes, we’re talking about the name brand drugs, not generics.

I know what my opinion is and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but think about the information in the previous paragraph. The answers are there.

Betty Karl




  1. Hey, Betty -- I'm a friend of Margo's, much newer to sailing than you and not a blue water sailor but find your blog fascinating. Is there some way for me to press a button and "follow" it? I just put mine up, and I haven't figured that out yet.(Mine is specifically for newer sailors: http://boldlygosailing.blogspot.com/

  2. Hi Sue - I don't know about the follow button, but I do see a "subscribe by email" on the right under these comments. I know there's an email button I could click on if there were people signed up - it may only work with gmail, because they're connected, I don't know. I'll check out your website. Also, check my Facebook page - www.facebook.com/islandfevercruising - that's where I post everything - videos ad blogs.

    Fair winds - Betty