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Medical Tourism Patient Leaves Weight of World in Mexico

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As a pre-diabetic with arthritis and both high cholesterol and blood pressure, Annette Troupe has felt the weight of the world pressuring her joints from her back to her feet.

Just this week, the 57-year-old Michigan woman left a little bit of that stress behind in Mexico, where she took advantage of a medical tourism opportunity to undergo weight-loss surgery at a hospital in Tijuana.

After failing to meet minimum weight requirements by just 11 pounds — for coverage under her health insurer's plan, Troupe, at 210 pounds, began contemplating alternatives to reduce both her weight and potential out-of-pocket medical costs. She turned to medical tourism.

Nothing Funny

I have a back full of arthritis, and it's getting worse, she told the Grand Rapids Press before bariatric surgery. I'm in so much pain in my feet, it's not funny. My knees are starting to grind and creak and ache.

The factory worker, who had previously undergone surgery on her back and feet, bypassed the $17,000 price tag for a bariatric operation in the United States and instead opted for a five-day stay at Hospital Angeles Tijuana for $10,950.

I am not anti-American I love my country, said Troupe. There just are other options out there available to you if you do the research and ask the right questions.

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Renée-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association, said there are scores of Americans who have found bargains by outsourcing medical procedures and treatments abroad.

There are hospital networks and clinics in Mexico that offer similar procedures from dental implants and hip replacements to complex organ transplants and cardiovascular surgeries to those offered in the United States, said Stephano, Many of the doctors and clinical staff in Mexico have received their medical certifications after gaining education and training in the United States.

Stephano said many facilities overseas are accredited by the Joint Commission International, which works with healthcare organizations, governments, and international advocates to promote rigorous standards of care and provide solutions for achieving peak performance.

Patients care reach out to a medical tourism facilitator who is skilled at arranging package deals that include travel accommodations, transfer of medical records, doctor and facility connections, and trusted procedures and treatments, she said. Rising healthcare costs in the United States have forced patients to get creative with their insurance dollars and shop for the best bang for their buck. In many cases, that means looking at options overseas where medical care can cost less, but without compromising on quality or outcomes.

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Estimates of the number of American patients being treated in Mexico are difficult to accurately pinpoint, Stephano said. Although some who routinely travel to Mexico for medical care may come from as far away as Canada, the majority of patients are from the border states of California, Texas and Nevada.

As Troupe made arrangements for her surgery, she told the Grand Rapids Press that she was impressed by the medical information she received from her case manager regarding her surgeon. She said the hospital had a shuttle to pick up patients at the airport in San Diego and take them across the border. The crossing is expedited because a separate lane is reserved for medical tourism patients.

Despite questions from others about the need for the surgery or the decision to go to Mexico Troupe is confident she made the right choice. She has struggled with excess weight most of her life, has been on numerous diets and has tried hypnotism.

Gaining 11 pounds so she could qualify for insurance coverage is not an option Troupe would consider. Even once she was eligible for the surgery her insurer would require counseling and a medical weight-loss program first. She believes she has too many obesity-related health issues to postpone the surgery any longer.

Troupe's husband, Bill, sympathized with her struggles to lose weight throughout the years and supported his wife's decision to undergo bariatric surgery in Mexico.

We've thrown money away on lots of less important things, he said.

Troupe said her ultimate goal is to drop 80 pounds. Right now, her body-mass-index is 33.1. She needed a 35 BMI to qualify for insurance, but would rather look ahead to having less pain in her joints and the ability to golf, ski, and enjoy walks again with her husband.

Bill and I are taking my mom and dad on a Caribbean cruise in January, she said. I would love to feel good about the way I look when I get on that boat.

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