Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Medical Tourism and Health Care Reform

Whether liberal or conservative, most of us can agree that the U.S. health care system needs work. With health care costs spiraling out of control, affordable health care is fast becoming out of reach for uninsured or underinsured Americans.

Many people automatically assume that this broken health care system is what drives the medical tourism industry, fueling the need for overseas travel for health care. They think owners and employees in the medical travel profession automatically oppose any reform that could potentially harm business.

But in reality, many people in this industry were drawn to the profession in the first place simply to help make premium health care more accessible to the average person. I, for one, started MedTrava after helping my mother battle breast cancer as an uninsured patient in the U.S. Once I realized what a daunting task it was to face a major health crisis with limited options, I made it my mission to give people like my mother an alternative option with the high-quality, low-cost care available overseas.

Medical tourism will continue to grow as the global supply chain for this industry continues to expand. Everyday newer destinations are emerging and more and more countries are adopting medical tourism as a strategic growth initiative. In this Age of Information, patients will continue to seek out different options to determine what best suits their needs.

Medical tourism is not an American phenomenon. Patients from places as diverse as Nigeria to England have contacted MedTrava for help arranging an overseas surgery. Their reasons vary—some are avoiding long waiting times in their native countries, others are seeking cutting-edge treatments not yet available at home, and still others choose to go abroad to save thousands of dollars on their medical bills.
Here is a snapshot of a few medical travel patients and their reasons for traveling:

-An 87-year-old woman with dental insurance in the U.S. opted to get her implants in Costa Rica, where she was still able to save about $30,000.

-A 35-year-old man whose insurance would only cover spinal fusion surgery (a painful surgery with not only a long recovery time but also one that needs to be repeated every few years) opted to travel to India and pay out of pocket for disc replacement surgery. He saved precious recovery time, eliminated the need for future surgeries - all for less than what he would have owed on his co-pay on the spinal fusion surgeries.

-A 55-year-old man needed knee replacement surgery. His company was self-insured (they paid for employees' medical costs directly) and offered him a share of the savings if he flew to India for his surgery.

The world continues to get more globalized in all economic areas, and health care is no exception. Different countries are establishing themselves as the leaders in various health care specialties, and medical tourism will be a necessary tool to ensure that the quality of medicine everywhere continues to advance. Whether you love or hate the Obama administration's health care proposal, MedTrava is committed to embracing all changes to the law to make sure that you continue to receive the best health care in the world.