Picture this, Caleb Choa, a 55 years old male with a history of congestive heart failures working as the Director of Human Resources for a wholesale food company (let's say TastyFoods Inc.-fictitious) of approximately 500 employees needs to undergo a CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft). There are also 4 other staff members with chronic heart conditions needing similar surgeries within the next few years. Being the HR Director, he is privileged to the executive medical service the company signed up for as an extra perk for enrolling all their employees in a wellness program with the health insurance company. The Concierge medical service consultant is meeting with Caleb to discuss options for his surgery and asks him if he'll like to take a week off to visit his grandparents in Taiwan before his surgery? Caleb is confused and asks why that matters. John Smith, the consultant goes on to tell him about Medical Tourism.
Medical Tourism is a multimillion dollar industry that spans all the continents of the world. It is the practice of medical practitioners providing care to international patients locally, or internationally. Medical tourism is when a patient visits another country for medical reasons, or a medical practitioner visits another country to practice medicine. The biggest concentration of funds with Medical Tourism comes from patients that visit other countries for care. If Caleb went to Taiwan to have his CABG done we can consider that medical tourism. One of the biggest benefits of medical tourism is the cost involved; because of the rising cost of health care in America (spanning over 16% of the national GDP and growing exponentially), medical tourism as become a viable option for insurance companies and companies that have self funded health insurance plans for their employees. If the cost of Mr Chao's surgery was estimated to be about $40,000 in America, a flight to Taiwan, the surgery performed by an American trained Cardiothoracic Surgeon, two weeks of paid time off, housing, accommodation, and miscellaneous expenses may cost less than $20,000 (half the price of what is estimated in America).
Medical tourism is risky however. Most international hospitals do the best they can, and a lot of them go above and beyond to provide the same level of care to their tourist patients. They organize tours of the city, spas, vacation packages and more to patients pre-surgery and to their visiting families through the stay. They also typically have an American, Canadian, or British trained Physician heading the case. The risk comes in the ancillary services, nursing, pharmacy, respiratory care the patient gets. The cost of the service is cheap for a reason, most apparent from lower income wages for employees, less aggressive malpractice issues, fewer tax laws, and lower cost of living in general. It is important to do your own research regardless of what's presented to you about the location of care.
Having said that, imagine how cost effective it will be for TastyFoods Inc. if the HR Director and other employees needing this surgery and other surgeries chose to travel to exotic locations for a one week vacation, a day of surgery, and a week to recover. Imagine how low their health insurance premiums would be the following year if they reduce the 'out of pocket cost' for employee health. Medical Tourism is a growing industry with a lot of good things and some bad. A good manager in charge of employee health should at least look into it a few times a year and ask their health insurance brokers more information about it. If you as an individual are given the option to travel internationally for medical care, you might want to consider that option, it might be your only paid vacation for a while.