Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, treated 58,000 American patients in 2005, and looks to treat 20 percent more this year. Why?
At Bumrungrad Hospital, [spokesman Ruben] Toral said, the lower cost of living is a major factor in the savings, but so are differences in how the medical system operates.
Doctors in Thailand pay about $5,000 a year for malpractice insurance, compared with more than $100,000 for some specialties in the United States.
Thai courts will adjudicate malpractice claims, but the largest award ever issued was about $100,000 and the law there doesn’t permit damages for pain and suffering.
(Mark Roth, “Surgery abroad an option for those with minimal health coverage,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sep. 10). Apparently the Thais haven’t heard the propaganda from the American trial bar that caps on non-economic damages don’t lower malpractice insurance premiums or medical expenses. And apparently, thousands of Americans prefer cheaper healthcare to the opportunity to recover pain-and-suffering damages: unfortunately, plaintiffs’ organizations fight very hard to ensure that American consumers don’t actually get that choice. (Via, of all places, Bizarro-Overlawyered, where one can almost see the smoke coming out of the ears of the posting blogger because of the “Does-Not-Compute” cognitive dissonance.)
Update: Justinian Lane continues his blog’s consistent dishonesty. My post makes two points:
1) Thailand has lower medical malpractice insurance costs in part because there are caps of zero on non-economic damages in that country, notwithstanding the repeatedly refuted claims of the plaintiffs’ bar that insurance costs and caps are unrelated.
2) Americans, when given a choice, prefer cheaper health-care to the opportunity for pain-and-suffering damages, but the plaintiffs’ bar fights the opportunity to give consumers so much as the choice; in this debate, as with most debates over liability reform, it’s the reformers who are the true consumer advocates.
In response, Lane has a lengthy diatribe pointing out that Thailand has lower expenses for many other things, which is pointed out in this very post at the beginning of the block quote! Lane then proceeds to attack me for a claim I never made, while ignoring the claims I did make. Readers can judge for themselves why Lane and Dugger’s blog only debates against strawmen, rather than what reformers actually say.
Lane’s post does have an interesting statistic: there are 600 doctors who see 800,000 patients a year at the Bumrungrad hospital. Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope calculations: if the average doctor there saves $50,000 to $100,000/year in malpractice insurance costs, that’s $30 million to $60 million a year saved by the hospital. If the average Thai family has three to five visits to a hospital clinic doctor a year, that’s an average savings of $120-$400/year per family. How many American households would turn down $120-$400 a year because they’d rather have the opportunity for lottery-ticket non-economic damages in a malpractice case? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’m willing to find out by giving American consumers the option. The fact that the plaintiffs’ bar fights very hard against giving consumers the option shows that they know that the public isn’t getting their money’s worth from the civil justice system, perhaps because over half the money spent on insurance for our woefully inefficient and inaccurate game-show of a medical malpractice litigation system goes to lawyers, rather than patients.