Medical Tourism: The New Surgical Option

by Dan Heffley , | 2008-07-30

Aah. Summertime. The smell of coconut sunscreen, laughing children, and vacations. And for some, a time for that surgery they've been putting off. Say what???

Healthcare expenditures have reached epidemic proportions here in the United States. It's fairly common knowledge that certain procedures can be performed in other countries for a third of the cost or less than stateside. However, most insurance companies wouldn't cover the costs or would charge more for out-of-network costs. That is about to change.

Insurance companies are enterprising entities. If there is a market for something and they can make a profit at it, they can be quite innovative in coming up with programs to cater to their clients' needs. Enter Medical Tourism, the next "big" thing. Medical tourism combines the need for lower cost for common surgical procedures with the American desire to travel to exotic locales. Already offered by non-insurance companies, many of the big insurance companies seem ready to dive in. There is a conference this September in San Francisco to discuss just such an endeavor. The participants are the insurance companies' "A-list" of top carriers. Once waiting on the sidelines, the insurance industry seems ready to commit.

So, what exactly is Medical Tourism and why should we be interested? It's helpful to first address common misperceptions against foreign medical care in order to look at its benefits. For some people, the thought of having surgery in a foreign country where you don't speak the language entails visions of operations in dirty back alleys. Worse, instead of having your diseased gallbladder removed, they remove a kidney to sell on the black market. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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