U.S. Medical Refugees Flee to India

An increasing number of the 46 million Americans without health insurance have begun fleeing to places as far away as India to get lifesaving medical treatments.


CHENNAI, India — As startling numbers of Americans go without health insurance, more of them see their only hope in fleeing to far-flung nations like India for life-saving medial treatments.

The dearth of affordable health insurance has engendered a new breed of what the New England Journal of Medicine classifies as “medical refugees” — patients traveling abroad for heart surgery and other crucial procedures — that has grown sharply in the past two years.

In 2005, 46 million Americans — or about 15 percent of the total population — lacked health insurance, according to a Census Bureau study. For families who don’t qualify for Medicare but can’t afford private coverage, a sudden accident or illness could lead to financial disaster.


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