Last night we had to give some end of the semester presentations, and one of the groups in my class discussed medical tourism. Just in case you don’t know what medical tourism is (as I didn’t), medical tourism is when someone from one country opts to get a medical procedure done in another country. The first thing that popped into my mind was that this must be a cost issue. People are getting heart surgery in India because it costs $30,000.00 while it costs $180,000.00 in the United States. It turns out that was one of the main reasons for people to opt for medical tourism, but there were many more motives. Another motivator was that the treatment they needed wasn’t approved by the FDA. They couldn’t get the treatment in the U.S. so they went overseas. If there was a cure for diabetes in another country I might be interested in giving it a shot. This next reason is what I really thought was interesting; people are participating in medical tourism because their health insurance companies are incentivizing them to do so!
Now I’m not sure how I feel about this. If I need heart valve replacement, which is very expensive in the United States, my insurance company will give me presents to get it done somewhere else. It’s obvious they would be saving a lot of money so they better give me some darn good incentives. It turns out that they are offering different incentives ranging from offering you a check based on the amount of money you saved them to paying for your whole “vacation”. Some of the insurance companies that are offering these incentives are Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
I’m curious to know how some of you feel about medical tourism. I know I would be nervous about the quality of work, but apparently there is a U.S. based non-profit agency that accredits hospitals around the world. I think a decision like this, like so many others I’ve discussed, needs to be made by an informed consumer.
Would you ever participate in medical tourism if it was proven you would get quality work, or is there no way you would be interested?