OP-ED from the office of Senator Carlos Uresti

Date: May 7, 2007
CONTACT:Ryan Sullivan

Protecting Patient Safety
by State Senator Carlos Uresti

Many industries in the United States have "outsourced" part or all of their business to parts of the world where it is cheaper to operate. We have seen this movement in everything from manufacturing to telephone call centers.

There are benefits and drawbacks to outsourcing in nearly every application, but I believe one industry should be carved out of the outsourcing trend: health care.

Last week Senate Bill 1391 passed unanimously. This bill forbids any health plan in Texas from requiring a patient to travel out of the United States for a health care procedure. SB 1391 now heads to the House for consideration.

As many more Americans choose to travel to other parts of the world for cheaper medical care, the key word should remain "choose". An individual traveling to Thailand or Mexico for a lower cost cosmetic procedure would still be free to do so under Senate Bill 1391. But my bill will not allow anyone to be forced to seek medical treatment outside of this country.

As businesses and the insurance industry look for ways to lower health care costs -- and increase profits -- they should not be allowed to do so at the cost of patient safety and comfort.

Outsourcing health care to other countries creates several major problems for patients. While costs might be lower abroad, differences in treatment, physician training, and other safety standards could pose threats to those receiving care abroad. Patients would be separated from families and friends during and after treatment, cutting out the support most of us need to feel better. Follow-up care is difficult to obtain when a procedure is performed thousands of miles away. And if something does go wrong, patients have to contend with a foreign court system if they choose to sue for malpractice.

Finally, outsourcing medical care to other countries drains health dollars out of the United States and channels them into other countries. With so many hospitals and care providers operating on tight margins in this country, especially in rural and border regions, we must focus on building capacity and keeping health care funds in our own country.

Senate Bill 1391 helps protect patient safety and choice, while protecting the integrity of our health care system. I look forward to continuing my legislative efforts behalf of Texas patients and our health care system with this bill's passage in the House.

State Senator Carlos I. Uresti represents Senate District 19. His Capitol office can be reached at 512-463-0119; his San Antonio district office can be reached at 210-932-2568. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station, Austin, Texas 78711.