Have Surgery. Go Sightseeing

by PAUL B. BROWN ,  The Newyork Times | 2007-03-24

WOULD you be willing to have nonurgent medical procedures done overseas, if you could recover in a fine hotel and your employer not only picked up all the costs, but actually paid you for having the work done outside the United States?

You may be faced with that decision, if HR Magazine is right in its prediction that "medical tourism" will become one of the benefits corporations will be offering soon.

Medical tourism, or medical travel as it is also called, involves traveling to “respected medical facilities” in countries like India, Thailand or Singapore to have non-life-threatening medical procedures done, Betty Liddick writes. "It also often involves recuperation at a resort, or tourist destination, all for less than what treatment alone would cost in the United States."

The price is obviously the appeal to employers. According to examples cited in the article "Going the Distance for Health Savings," the cost of sending a worker overseas for procedures like removing a gallbladder can be at least 50 percent less than that of having the work done in the United States, even if the employer pays for the worker to spend recovery time in a fine hotel.

To encourage employees to go overseas, some companies are willing to give employees a percentage of what is saved in medical costs.

The crucial question about medical tourism, which Ms. Liddick describes as a "small but growing health care trend," is, of course, whether the quality of care is equal to what could be received at home.

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