Question: We understand that you developed an interest in medical tourism as a result of exploring for affordable healthcare options outside the United States for Mr. Staab’s heart surgery. What kind of hurdles were you meeting for similar care in the US for him?
They would not work with us on payment, and the cost was astronomical. They preferred we wait until Howard's heart failed and he had to come to the Emergency Room in an ambulance. But he only had a mechanical, fixable problem... not a damaged heart muscle. We didn't have the money up front.
Question: What led you to writing “State of the Heart”?
The flood of questions and pleas for help from potential patients, researchers, Indian citizens, etc. who wanted to know how we did it. I couldn't help as many people one at a time as I thought I could. If I wrote a book about our experience, I thought it might give the personal side of the story… to offer some hope, some comfort to those who venture into this unknown territory.
Question: How was the quality of health care that Mr. Staab received in India? How much did it cost? And how much do you think you saved by going to India?
The quality of care was superb. Total 3 weeks of hospitalization and two surgeries was $6,700. Just a 5-7 day stay for one operation was estimated at $200,000 in the U.S. The entire trip for one month cost us under $10,000.
Question: Wasn’t it kind of risky to take a long flight to India when you had your heart at stake?
Yes, I imagine we didn't realize how risky. That's why it's not for everyone, in any state of health.
Question: You also presented a testimony before the U.S. Senate last summer regarding the globalization of healthcare. What was the reaction of the Senate on this? What problems do you think such a globalization can solve?
I think globalization offers a very viable option for those under- and uninsured. But it is not the way to fix our system. Instead of outsourcing, I think we should be looking at India's private sector as a model of how to streamline ours, make care the priority instead of the bottom line.
Question: You also do social work in India for children affected by the tsunami. How did you develop an interest in such a service?
I stumbled upon an orphanage in Mamallapuram, quite by coincidence. We spent Christmas of 2006 there, and bought them food for their pantry, pillows for the children, and worked with the children with art projects, decorations, etc. Fell in love with the children, and intend to go back. A little bit goes a long way. I guess that is social work. But it was exhilarating and fun!
Question: Would you like to add anything else?
I hope my book offers a personal perspective... that these are real people, highly trained professionals, who will care for you until you are well enough to return home. They are not in a hurry to get you out of the hospital, or to get to the next patient. Anyone considering going to India or any other country should always take a companion to serve as liaison to the medical staff. It is an adventure, and when we are faced with health crises, often times we aren't up for the adventure. I hope we continue to work toward deactivating the power structure of the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies here, so our doctors and nurses can get back to caring for patients.
Thanks, Ms. Grace, for your time and your views. We wish you success with State of the Heart.
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