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Medical Tourism: Are Major Changes
in Health Care Afoot?
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NEENAH, Wis.-November 18, 2008 - According to a recent survey conducted by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, the practice of “medical tourism” – traveling internationally for medical care – will explode over the next few years. In fact, the survey forecasts that the number of people turning to medical tourism will increase from 750,000 to 6 million by 2010. 

Patricia Look, an HR benefits subject matter expert with J. J. Keller & Associates, points out that the concept of medical tourism has been around for a number of years; however, escalating health care costs in the United States have caused it to become more accepted and even favored by some employers and insurers. 

“While there are many factors to consider,” states Look, “cost seems to be the biggest. It’s easy to see the draw … when a heart bypass procedure that costs $130,000 in the U.S. can be done at an accredited hospital in Singapore for $18,500 or in India for $10,000, for example.” 

So, what does this mean to our understanding of health care? “Change is in the air,” says Look. “The American Medical Association (AMA) has acknowledged the impact of medical tourism on the health care industry by issuing guidelines for employers, insurance companies and other entities that facilitate or incentivize medical care outside the U.S.” Look goes on to mention three trends already emerging: 

Pioneering companies 
“Some companies have started down the medical tourism road,” comments Look. She points to reports of some companies such as Doctors Care in South Carolina which offers employees the option of medical tourism through their insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield; Hannaford Brothers Company, a supermarket chain in Maine, who uses Aetna insurance to promote medical tourism in Singapore for its employees; and Intermountain Health Care (IHC) which even created a “medical-value” travel department. 
“These are just a few of the medical tourism cases put into practice,” says Look. “And many employers throughout the country are watching carefully with growing curiosity, if not an active interest.” 

International partnerships 
Look says she was surprised to discover just how many U.S. hospitals and clinics have partnered with a facility in another country in preparation for the future. She mentions a few of the more well-known U. S. facilities and the countries in which they are reported to be associated: 

  • Weill Cornell Medical College, New York – Doha, Qatar 
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Doha, Qatar 
  • Duke Medicine, North Carolina – Singapore 
  • John Hopkins Medicine, Maryland – Singapore 
  • Columbia University Medical Center, New York – Philippines 
Medical tourism firms 
“A major concern of consumers considering medical tourism is the in-depth research required on all the intricacies involved,” suggests Look. “That’s why new businesses have sprung up to assist consumers in this task.” Look notes five such new businesses in her recently published white paper. She says many of these companies will perform the entire planning process for the consumer … do all the necessary research; determine the best location or health care provider; arrange for air travel, transportation and hospital/hotel stay; and even assign the consumer a U.S. contact person. 

“No one knows for sure if medical tourism is here to stay or just a phase,” concludes Look. “But one thing is for sure, employers and insurers are pushing toward lower cost alternatives.” 

About J. J. Keller 
J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. was established in 1953 and has become the nation’s most respected name in risk and regulatory management. The company employs over 1,200 associates and serves over 350,000 customers including more than 90% of the Fortune® 1,000. J. J. Keller’s diverse products and services include publications, forms, training, supplies, software, consulting, online management tools, outsourced services, and mobile technology. For more information, visit jjkeller.com. 
Contacts 

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Contact:

J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.
Jean Bilitz
1-800-843-3174, ext. 7304
jbilitz@jjkeller.com
 

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Also See: Health Hotels - Logical Progression in Medical Tourism? / Barry Napier / May 2007
India's Medical Tourism Segment Enjoying Brisk Growth; Nearly 1,180,000 Patients from Around the World Visited India for Treatment in 2004 / July 2005
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