Monday, May 02, 2005

Downstream Ripple Effects


When I read about Apollo Hospital being India's rising star in the horizon of medical-tourism, thoughts turn to my dear friend B who made a trip to India for medical treatment making a detour at some tourist hot-spots along the way. For months after her return she could not get over the beautiful drape and hues of the sari and the sticker shock of rock bottom medical service charges in top-flight Indian facilities.

Hers in an interesting story. Divorced at age fifty she continues to support an improvident ex-husband out of a sense of misplaced responsibility if not guilt. Her retirement went up in smoke when the bubble burst forcing her out of her sea-side cottage back into the corporate quagmire and yet she calls the most expensive florist in town to deliver orchids to her aunt on her birthday.

Among a lot of other things, B is a victim of the perma-parent trap. She truly believes that she needs to make the down payment on the home that her daughter and son-in-law want to buy, pay for their Christmas shopping. This after having bank rolled their fifty thousand dollar theme wedding.

B needed to see an ophthalmologist and could not afford his bills with her skimpy medical insurance coverage. Day after day she squinted at the LCD display of her laptop trying to get the days work done. She obviously could not afford to consult a specialist for carpal tunnel syndrome either.

B is a good woman with a heart of gold. It's just that she does not know to look out for herself . Sometimes she talked about her fiscal dire straits and I would blurt out "If you stopped being everyone's fairy God-mother you'll be just fine" She would smile and say "I figure they need the money more than I do. God will take care of me when I run out so I'll be fine in the end" I could not possibly argue with such faith.

It's interesting how the ripples of global economic upheaval are felt downstream the human level. Her ex-husband was an X-ray technician who got laid off when someone in India could do remotely what he did for a tenth of the price. When B came back from her Indian medical-tour she had saved the "family" several thousand dollars. That money will pay her un-employed ex-husband's bills for several months which is more than his social security benefits can do for him.

Until B can afford to see a doctor within twenty miles of home, and her ex-husband can make a living out of his hobby of restoring old furniture not much will change in the pattern of their lives or that of million others in similar circumstances. A step in the right direction maybe the concept of micro-medical insurance being piloted in India.

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