My family has known it for, like, forever, but most Americans are now just discovering that it’s a lot cheaper to go overseas for their medical procedures. Insurance companies are calling it “medical tourism.” According to the Deloitte Center for Health Solution, 1.6 million Americans are expected to embark on trips for overseas health care in 2010, which more than doubles the 750,000 Americans who traveled abroad in 2007 for similar purposes. Major destinations seem to be Third World countries in Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, etc.
What “cash for clunkers” did for the automobile industry, “medical tourism” can do for health-care reform in America. Even better, it will put a lot of people back to work in our ailing airline industry, to say nothing of advertising agencies. MAD MEN will truly rule! I can relive my own salad days as a copywriter when I finally retire from academia! Salad days. Hmmm. I like that. Green is good, when even the President’s wife is growing her own lettuce and tomatoes in the White House. But I digress. Let’s get back to the creative business of copywriting. Here are some possible advertising slogans:
“Can’t afford new dentures in Kansas, or new bridges to nowhere in Alaska? Yes you can…in Cancun!”
“Left your heart in San Francisco? We’ll give you a new one…in Santo Domingo!”
“Say bye-bye to all those eye-popping MRI bills…in Mumbai!”
“No Bull! We kid you not! Free kidneys with your dream vacation…in Istanbul!”
“Horrified by the high cost of health care in America? Then come to…Costa Rica!”
“In the U.S. they charge you an arm and a leg for limb surgery. But with US, you get your pick of perky prosties even as you wait for your prosthetics!”
You get the idea. As I said earlier, my family has known about “medical tourism” for years. Let me tell you about my youngest brother, a successful dentist in Orlando, married, with two kids. He owns an expensive boat and goes deep-sea fishing with his buddies, spending as little time as possible in the clinic inflicting pain on his patients. So it isn’t as though he couldn’t afford it, but in the mid-1990s, when he found out that I was planning a trip home to the Philippines to visit our mother, he asked if it would be okay if his youngest son tagged along with me. Louie was around thirteen years old at the time, too young to travel by himself on such a long journey. My brother thought it would be a good idea if the kid could explore his Chinese “roots” in Manila while I was there, so I could keep an eye on him while he did his exploring. Besides, my brother said, for some reason, Louie wants to be circumcised, and it’s cheaper to get the deed done in Manila. Kill two birds with one primitive stone implement, so to speak.
And so it came to pass. The day came when I accompanied Louie to the dingy office of the doctor who had been recommended for this delicate procedure. Louie was ushered through the limp curtain which separated “the operating room” from “the waiting room” where I waited. Where I could hear all the noises emanating from hell, the clatter of metallic objects falling on the floor, the cries and shrieks of my pubescent nephew who, in this unkindest cut of all, was in all likelihood losing his entire manhood, farewell to posterity and all that.
“Why don’t you sing a song?” I heard the doctor asking Louie.
“Anything at all. Something to take your mind off what I’m doing down here.”
And then–softly, feebly, plaintively–I heard my poor nephew singing: “Oh-oh…saaaay…can…you…seeeeeeee?”
I’ve never heard the National Anthem sung more freely, more bravely, more movingly. And I had to fly over seven thousand miles across the Pacific Ocean, all the way to the Philippines, to hear it. These are the ties that bind, indeed; even though, as of this writing, my youngest brother, who still lives in Orlando and who still goes deep-sea fishing with his buddies, also still has no grandchildren, at least none that we know of. Not that there’s anything wrong with Louie, to be sure. He emerged that day from “the operating room” a proud and erect member of The Cutting Edge. He just hasn’t found the right girl yet. Or maybe he thinks he can’t afford to get married yet. Maybe it’s time my brother sent him back to the Philippines.
“No money, no honey? Not when you’re…in Manila!”