Would your company pay for medical/surgical procedures done overseas? Would they do it if they could save 50% or more? Would they do it if the quality of care was the same if not better than the U.S?
In the United States, the term “medical tourism” generally refers to people traveling to less-developed countries for medical care.
Popular types of medical care are not just the typical face-lift or tummy tuck anymore. They include orthopedic and sophisticated heart surgeries; ophthalmologic care; and organ and cellular transplantation.
Common destinations include Thailand, Mexico, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, and Costa Rica.
Using U.S. costs across a variety of specialties and procedures as a benchmark, average range of savings for the most-traveled destinations:
- Brazil: 20-30%
- Costa Rica: 45-65%
- India: 65-90%
- Malaysia: 65-80%
- Mexico: 40-65%
- Singapore: 25-40%
- South Korea: 30-45%
- Taiwan: 40-55%
- Thailand: 50-75%
- Turkey: 50-65%
Many hospitals have doctors and surgeons who have trained in the U.S. or Britain, which is a great comfort to American patients. The irony is that 25% of physicians in the U.S. got their education abroad. Escorts Heart Institute and Research Center in Delhi, for instance, was founded by an authority on robotic cardiac surgery, Dr. Naresh Trehan, formerly of New York University.
Patients usually stay in a country a total of 15 to 17 days to allow medical treatment, recovery and follow-up. Conference calls can be held with the patient’s U.S and overseas doctors prior to and after the patient gets home.
Some insurers and large employers have alliances with overseas hospitals to control health care costs, and several major medical schools in the United States have developed joint initiatives with overseas providers, such as the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center, the Johns Hopkins Singapore International Medical Center, and the Duke-National University of Singapore.
Overseas health care facilities are now being accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). JCI is the international division of the Joint Commission Resources, a US-based, not-for-profit affiliate of the Joint Commission that certifies health care facilities in the United States. As of July, 2014 the JCI has accredited 600 international hospitals and the rate of accreditation is growing at 20% per year.
The accounting behind the interest in medical tourism isn’t complicated. Many major employers in the U.S. are self-insured, which means they pick up the tab for much of their employees’ medical care. So company cost is greatly decreased by its use.
Some companies will share up to 25% of savings with their employees that are saved from the outsourcing. Get a new hip and a rebate.
Companies with traditional plans are also taking the initiative. Over the past few years, some U.S. insurance companies have announced plans to include foreign medical procedures among those covered by health plans.
As companies search for providers who offer maximal value and quality care, medical tourism is likely to become an even more attractive option.
Patients Beyond Borders, a respected source of consumer information about international medical and health travel, estimates the worldwide medical tourism market is growing at a rate of 15-25%.
As Princeton University healthcare economist Uwe Reinhardt stated: "This has the potential of doing to the US health-care system what the Japanese auto industry did to American carmakers."
“Flight 2318 is now boarding for Bangkok!”
Jacque Vilet, President of Vilet International, has over 20 years’ experience in Global Human Resources with major multinationals such as Intel, National Semiconductor and Seagate Technology. She has managed both local/ in-country national and expatriate programs and has been an expat twice during her career. Her true love is working with local national issues. Jacque has the following certifications: CCP, GPHR, HCS and SWP as well as a B.S. and M.S in Psychology and an MBA. She belongs to SHRM, Human Capital Institute and World at Work. Jacque has been a speaker in the U.S., Asia and Europe, and is a regular contributor to various HR and talent management publications.