On February 19, 2020

Health care is broken, fly to Mexico

Dear Editor,

I was still trying to get used to the idea that some Americans are going to jail because they don’t show up in court when hospitals sue them for unpaid medical bills when I came across other news that seemed at first like satire.  The state of Utah has a “Pharmacy Tourism Program” that pays for some state employees to travel to Mexico and Canada, by air, to fill prescriptions for expensive medicines.

Even after paying the cost of airfare and a cash bonus to the employee as an incentive, the Utah Public Employees Health Program [PEHP] saves considerable money on these prescriptions.  The program started last year, and involves only a few employees, but has already saved about $250,000 according to the director of PEHP.

Add this to the existing “medical tourism” in which Americans travel to foreign countries for more affordable medical procedures.  It’s so common—750,000 people way back in 2007— that the American Medical Association has guidelines on it. According to a 2019 article in the American Journal of Medicine, some American hospitals have set up branches in foreign countries to take advantage of American patients who can’t afford care at those same hospitals in the US.

How can people continue to deny that our health care system is broken beyond repair?  We obviously need some form of Medicare for All, not just tinkering around the jagged edges of our current disaster.

Lee Russ,

Bennington

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