Friday, October 19, 2012

What Free Market Health Care Looks Like

That's health care without Obama or Romney butting in.

Simon Black reports:

Pattaya, Thailand

I’m one of those idiots who pays into a health insurance plan month after month, year after year, and never goes to the doctor.

In fact, I’ve had my current plan for years without ever filing a claim. The only reason to have it is the unlikely event that I trip over my shoelace while visiting the US and end up with a $200,000 emergency room bill.

Everywhere else, insurance isn’t necessary; the price of healthcare in most places is reasonable enough to pay cash.

Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in Thailand… home to one of the most advanced, highest quality, and cheapest private healthcare systems on the planet.

Every time I’m here, I visit a hospital just to try things out; my experiences have always been stellar. And speedy.

Just yesterday I dropped in (without an appointment) to Bangkok Hospital’s Pattaya branch to check my cholesterol. There was zero paperwork upon check-in… no stupid forms, no clipboards. And I went straight to the back. No waiting around.

Afterwards, one of the staff physicians came over to chat. His English was perfect, and it seemed as if I was his only patient of the day.

That’s perhaps one of the most important points about healthcare here– the staff/patient ratio is astoundingly high, so you get a tremendous amount of personal attention.

The whole experience is also very private. I use an assumed name at the hospital. I’ve never given them any ID. And obviously there’s no insurance company or government agency demanding my records.
The biggest benefit, though, is cost. Or lack thereof. The amount I paid for my visit yesterday wouldn’t buy a beer in some countries. And the sticker shock applies universally to all tests and procedures, from imaging to chemotherapy to fertility treatments to elective surgery.

The physicians here are excellent. But for those who can’t get over the idea of a foreign doctor, one approach is hiring a specialist in your home country to consult and be the ‘quarterback’ of your care. You get all the expensive tests, imaging, and labs done in Thailand, then send the results back home.

This approach also works with medication.

A friend of mine in the United States has Type I diabetes, and his insurance plan provides a fixed supply of insulin. As you may know, diabetes does not necessarily conform to the terms and conditions of a health plan.

My friend wanted to have some extra insulin injections… just in case. But the insurance company balked. So while visiting New York a few months ago, I asked a doctor who owed me a favor to write my friend a prescription for a few spare vials.

In the US, the tab came to $1,770. In Thailand, it costs 77% less. I checked into a number of other name brand pharmaceuticals ranging from blood pressure medication to new chemo drugs. The same trend applies, typically 50% to 90% cheaper.

If you’re uninsured, or seeking medication/treatment not covered by your insurance, consider Thailand. This country is full of internationally accredited hospitals. The quality is excellent. And the travel expense is a no-brainer investment in huge cost savings.

And there’s one more thing. The baht is fairly weak right now having been handily outperformed by many other currencies in the region. This makes care here even cheaper if you’re a dollar spender.

But it won’t last. Courtesy of Mr. Bernanke’s never-ending money printing, inflation is being exported to this part of the world on a grand scale. Plus, there will come a time when the baht gains substantial ground against the dollar.

All of this will inflate away the cheap, high quality care you can receive here. As such, now may be the best time ever for you to trade your rapidly depreciating dollars for an investment in your health.

After all, if there is severe economic turmoil down the road, do you really want to experience it wishing you had done something about that nagging hip pain?

And even if nothing happens, investing in your health makes sense… no matter what.

The above originally appeared at Sovereign Man, sign up for their newsletter here.


  1. Robert, the presentation is fascinating. Have you ever come across articles on the subject, written by residents of Thailand? I would be curious to know what a native of Thailand thinks about their health care system and how it compares to those in larger countries like the United States.

  2. Looks like Simon is in luck. With Obamacare, he can cancel his pricey health insurance policy, and then sign up for it again just before he crosses the border into the US.

    Maybe they will have kiosks at the airport, for signing up/canceling your health insurance as you enter/leave the country. Like currency exchanges.

  3. My reference for any healthcare discussion

  4. I live in Thailand. I can confirm what Simon describes. Free market health care and fantastic service. This includes dentists.

    Of course, int'l organisations are pushing hard for Thailand to adopt socialized health-care so it won't last that long.

  5. I would like to believe, but considering what the average Thai income is, "77% less" doesn't seem particularly impressive.

  6. I guess there are less costly hospitals (with higher patients:doctors ratios, non-English speaking stuff, more crammy buildings, etc) for lower-income Thailand citizens. You don't need top quality gadgets and physicians to take care of a common cold or a broken arm.

  7. I see free market health care as an institution where the cost of hoodia is stable and I'm sure I'll get quality health care at competitive prices.