Goose bumps for capitalists, and Obamacare

Day 2 of the AAPI summit: Perspectives on Healthcare, Indian Time.

Dr. GhaniKOCHI: I got to the convention at 0830 hours, hoping to catch the start of the first session of the day — Perspectives in Healthcare. To my surprise the auditorium was empty. Was I in the wrong place? I bumped into a friend who smiled and said, ‘Indian time’. People were complaining that 0830 was too early a start. Wow. I already love conferences in India!

When it finally began, the Perspectives session was actually quite interesting. The Indian perspective was laid down by a smart young man who was the son of Dr. Devi Shetty. I hadn’t heard of this Shetty guy, but thanks to the erratic 3G on my borrowed Indian iPhone I was able to Wikipedia Dr. Shetty. Seems he is a famous Indian heart surgeon who trained in the UK (my old stomping ground) and returned to India with the mission to set up cardiac centers for the poor (don’t you just love Wikipedia?).

Based in Bengaluru, his goal is to provide a heart operation for 800 dollars. “If a solution is not affordable it’s not a solution”, said Dr. Shetty. I like that line. But alas! Dr. Shetty couldn’t make it because he was meeting a chief minister, so he sent his son instead. Papa’s good looks on my non-retinapro iPhone 3 reminded me of the Pakistani heart surgeon who had that affair with Princess Diana. What happened to him? Go on, Wikipedia it.

But this is India; there has to be money in there somewhere. Oh yes…large medical city is planned. Nevertheless, the son did a good job and had some nice slides. India is still a country full of poor people. It might be cool making fancy hospitals for the rich, but what about the poor people? Who looks after them? At least they were trying.

The view from the Middle East was provided by Dr. Azad Moopen, a self-made multi-millionaire healthcare entrepreneur from Kerala, who now runs the largest network of clinics, hospitals and pharmacies in the Middle East. From humble beginnings of an academic physician, his group is expanding as a major player in the Indian scene with the construction of a state-of-the-art hospital, hotel and convention center in Kochi. It’s the type of stuff that will give any self-respecting capitalist the goose bumps.

Interesting fact from Dr. Moopen: Only 12% of the population of the UAE are locals; the rest are expatriates. Unlike the locals, this lot do not receive free healthcare from the UAE government. Dr. Moopen is their knight in shining armor by providing them affordable healthcare.

The US perspective came from Dr. Lazarus, a psychiatrist who is also the President of the American Medical Association. No slides and a good talk on what the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare actually means. OK here goes (deep breath): a cap on the profit margin that insurance companies make, excess profit returned to the patient or into patient care, patients with pre-existing conditions would no longer find it difficult to get insurance, tax penalties for those unwilling to buy health insurance, insurance ‘markets’ allowing transparency within a competitive framework, thereby, bringing down the cost of insurance. The projected result: 49 million uninsured down to 19 million. Not universal healthcare but at least a start in the right direction, I think.

Good summary Dr. Lazarus. Not bad for a psychiatrist.

(Dr. Khurshid R. Ghani is a Fellow at the Vattikuti Urology Institute, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, MI, with interests in Robotic Surgery and Endourology. A UK Board qualified Urologist who studied Medicine and Psychology at the University of Leeds, he was awarded The Urology Foundation Robotic Urologic Surgery Fellowship from the British Association of Urological Surgeons. He is the co-author of the textbook, Endourology: A Practical Handbook. He spent time as a junior surgeon in Zimbabwe and was awarded the Lindsay Stewart Prize from the Association of Surgeons of East Africa. He is married to Muna, who is the Manager of Executive Communications at General Motors, Detroit. They have two daughters, Hana, 3 years, and Sofia, 1 month.)


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