Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Good White Paper On Medical Tourism

My colleague David Williams and his associates have come up with a great white paper on medical tourism from the US perspective. It has good information and analysis on several aspects, and also comes out with some notable predictions including:
  • US health insurers will start to provide coverage for medical tourism in 2008. Mini-med plans and small employers -not big health plans and blue chip companies-- will lead the way.
  • State governments will begin to embrace medical tourism by 2010.
  • Opposition to medical tourism by US physicians will be relatively modest.
  • Medical tourism won't have a major, direct impact on US health care costs, but the secondary impact will be substantial.

If you have the time and interest it is well worth reading the full paper which can be downloaded and also accessed through their website.

I broadly agree with the paper's expressed opinions, forecasts and predictions. They did a good job crystallizing a lot of the wisdom into those predictions. About the prospects of places attracting US medical tourists here are my views:

Because of pricing I don't think Singapore will ever be a popular destination for Americans, though it may serve a richer clientele from neighboring areas and the Middle East. My bets are on India followed by Malaysia, Thailand, and may be China and Philippines for serious procedures; and Costa Rica / other Latin American countries for the dental / cosmetic procedures, and a few major surgeries for people who don't want to travel too far.

One development is notable in the context of a weakening dollar. A lot of places like in Europe that earlier cost half as much as treatment in the US are no longer financially viable destinations for the cost conscious, so the places like India offering much cheaper treatment will attract proportionately more traffic.


ggop said...

In addition to ortho and cardio vascular care, I wonder if procedures like IVF and plastic surgery are cheaper abroad.
(Not sure how many people would risk going abroad for plastic surgery though)

Sandip Madan said...

Safe and cheap IVF and plastic surgery is certainly available abroad, but patients need to look carefully. India has good facilities, and the lowest prices, but it's far and IVF will probably require multiple visits.

Costa Rica is much closer, with some very good facilities I believe (though none are JCI accredited yet) and streamlined arrangements. The prices are higher - but still under half those in the US, at least before the recent fall of the US dollar.