MedRetreat – Medical Tourism

November 12, 2009

Medical Tourism – The Next Wave

Health Insurance Companies and Self-funded Employers will face an important decision before sending patients overseas for surgery

The battle lines have been drawn in the sand as The House of Representatives passed the “Health Care Reform Bill” over the weekend, and now it will be up to the Senate to cast the final vote before President Obama signs legislation into law.

As the national healthcare reform debate has raged on over the past 10 months, many Americans in need of medical care have taken matters into their own hands by packing their bags and traveling far and wide to undergo surgical procedures in foreign countries where medical care is a mere fraction of the cost for the same care in the U.S.

The tremendous cost savings and excellent quality of care offered by many elite foreign hospitals have not gone unnoticed by U.S. health insurance companies and employers who self-fund their healthcare benefits. Both groups are seeking to navigate the current political storms within the industry.

According to the November 7th, New York Times Article, “Looking Abroad for Health Savings,” by Katharine Q. Seelye:

“No matter what Congress does with health care legislation in the next few weeks, one thing is already clear: the result will not do much to control the climbing costs of medical care in the United States. And that is why many employers and insurance companies may seek savings by encouraging patients to travel abroad for treatment.”

As insurance companies and employers consider the real benefits of medical tourism, not only to their profit margins, but also to their membership, it’s imperative that they establish the proper infrastructure and framework that places their members’ safety and security first and foremost.

Under the existing model in the U.S., insurance companies and employers simply refer their members to established hospitals within their group network in local communities throughout the nation. This process is for the most part simple and straightforward. However, should insurance companies and self-funded employers expand their existing networks to include some of the more popular medical tourism destinations such as Malaysia, Thailand, India and Brazil, new considerations will be necessary to guarantee a safe and stress-free medical travel experience for their participating members.

It’s already stressful enough to undergo surgical procedures at one’s local hospital with the full support of family and friends. Simply informing a patient to show up for surgery at a foreign hospital on a specific date in an unfamiliar environment is a customer relationship nightmare waiting to happen.

Of course insurance companies and employers could rely on the foreign hospitals to manage all the necessary functions of a foreign surgery. But, keep in mind, the hospitals are focused on treating and healing patients and not building and connecting cross-border bridges of customer support and managing logistics.

Patrick Marsek, managing director of MedRetreat, an American medical travel facilitation company, comments; “In the coming years, as insurance companies and employers offering self-funded healthcare coverage begin adding foreign hospitals to their network, they will be wise to partner with professional medical travel facilitators to best guarantee successful outcomes. There are a host of benefits by doing so. Just take into account the amount of time a facilitator spends with each patient. On an average, we spend over 20 hours, collectively as a company on each patient, and make over 120 points of contact with them before they complete their recuperation. I don’t believe many insurance companies and employers will want to deal with all the little nuances involved with overseas surgery – it’s just not their core competency.” Mr. Marsek offers the following link for a list of benefits:

http://www.medretreat.com/medical_tourism/corporate_healthcare/role_of_facilitator.html

Healthcare Providers should certainly perform their due diligence when choosing a Medical Travel Facilitation Company. There are numerous agencies that come in many stripes and colors. Some agencies act only as a referral service where they have a nice website and discuss the destination options, schedule the doctors appointments, reserve the hotel accommodations and procure flight reservations. This facilitation model is not sufficient and can lead to unsatisfied patients.

It’s important to the success and longevity of a company’s medical travel efforts that they partner with a full service facilitator that provides a complete end-to-end solution for their respective clients. Facilitators, such as MedRetreat, have developed very sophisticated systems, with built-in redundancies at every step of the process, to ensure success and a high level of patient satisfaction. Marsek concludes; “A highly structured, time proven, medical travel process best guarantees a safe, stress-free and proactive experience. Happy patients are what drives this industry forward”

August 3, 2009

A Cosmetic Surgery Luxury Tax Would Boost Medical Tourism

Embattled congressmen on Capital Hill are churning out endless ideas to help pay for the massive healthcare reform proposals, which will cost Americans more than 1 trillion dollars over a ten year period, according to most estimates.

One idea proposed just this past week was a “luxury tax on plastic surgery.”  Although it appears that this idea has not gained mass appeal as of yet, it does make one wonder if all the reform stakeholders are considering the long-term consequences of all their political policies.

Take this example above of a luxury tax on plastic/cosmetic surgery.   The obvious reason for such a proposal is that cosmetic surgery is in most cases not necessary, and is considered by many a luxury for wealthy Americans.  A face and neck lift can easily cost over $10,000 to the average patient.

What has not been considered, however, is the numbers of Americans that are traveling outside the U.S. for their cosmetic procedures. This trend, referred to in the media as “medical tourism,” has grown from a fringe business only few years ago into a full-fledged industry today.

Many U.S. Board Certified Surgeons are treating North Americans every day at state-of-the-art hospitals that are accredited by the Joint Commission International, the branch of the U.S. accreditation organizations that accredits hospitals in the U.S.  These hospitals, located in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and India, are able to perform the same procedures at a fraction of the cost in the U.S.  The same face and neck lift that is over $10,000 in many places in the U.S. are little as $4,000 in many countries around the world.

It would seriously behoove our politicians in Washington, D.C. to consider the broader implications of adding a tax here and tax there to pay for increased government control.  Global competition is a reality.  Doctors and patients can travel.

For more information about medical travel, visit MedRetreat, the first U.S. organization established in 2003, to assist Americans in traveling abroad in a very safe and stress-free manner to receive medical treatment.

July 27, 2009

With Healthcare Reform Slowing, Should You Continue to Wait In Pain?

In past week, healthcare reform went from a done deal to a dead end on Capital Hill. As the realities of this massive political overhaul played out, the Obama Administration was forced to slow down and wait until after the Congressional August recess to get back to the legislative process on healthcare reform.
 
Many political pundits see this public derailment as Obama’s first real defeat as President. This certainly does not mean that healthcare reform will not happen in the near future, but it does raise the potential.  
 
As more stakeholders learn about the various reform ideas being considered by the democrats, they are beginning to fear the personal sacrifices they may be required to make to create a more government-centric plan.
 
As this national debate continues, what does it mean for the thousands of people that are suffering in debilitating pain without the appropriate insurance to cover a surgical procedure that would improve their condition. Even if healthcare reform is passed before the end of the year, how long will it take before these people can have their surgeries?
 
There is a more immediate solution to consider rather than hoping and waiting for healthcare reform to relieve ones pain and it called “medical tourism.” Simply defined, medical tourism, or medical travel is the act of traveling to a foreign country to obtain medical treatment. The uninsured and underinsured have been traveling many years now to escape the high cost of care in the U.S.
 
Many medical procedures outside the U.S. are a mere fraction of the cost. Take for example a hip replacement, which for many people means the difference between walking or not. In several countries like Malaysia, India, or Thailand this procedure ranges in prices from $12,000 to $15,000, which even includes the flights and all other travel essentials. 
 
As our national health care reform legislation slows, it is important to know that you still have viable options for immediate and affordable solutions for care.

June 25, 2009

The Irony of Healthcare Reform and Medical Tourism

One way or another, healthcare reform is coming to the U.S.  Regardless of how the final details turn out it will not serve as the be-all and end-all solution to our national healthcare system that many are wishing for.  There are no perfect healthcare systems in the world that delivers access to all in a cost-effective, fair and equitable way. If there were, we could simply copy such a model as our own and quickly move on to the next issue of the day.  

The current policies that the Obama Administration and the Democrats are proposing will most likely evolve into a form of government-centric nationalized system, meaning that the bureaucrats in Washington will ultimately take the chains of command and decision making away from the doctors and their individual patients.  

This type of plan is not a new and innovative at all. To see the ramifications of such a system, all we have to do is look at the results from Canada and England.  

Although we don’t hear stories coming out of Canada and the U.K. about someone being denied healthcare access due to financial constraints, we often hear about: 

  • Government rationing due to high cost of care
  • Extensive waiting times for non-life threatening conditions, such as 3 to 5 years for a hip or knee replacement
  • Higher mortality rates for many forms of cancer because the government deems the medications too costly
  • Older patients being denied access because of their age.

As a result of these governmental constraints, millions of Canadian and British patients have been travelling to foreign countries for decades in order to receive immediate medical access for their conditions which they were denied in their home countries. This mass exodus led to the exponential growth of the medical tourism industry.

In more recent years, uninsured and underinsured U.S. patients have been traveling to foreign countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, India, Mexico, and Costa Rica for many surgical procedures that are a mere fraction of the cost in the US. 

If our government ends up establishing a nationalized healthcare system, it’s ironic that while group a of citizens will not have to worry about travelling thousands of miles away from home for affordable surgical procedures any more, another larger group of citizens will elect to travel far and wide for immediate access. 

Regardless of the reform that is achieved in the U.S., it is apparent that medical travel will continue to increase. For anyone seeking medical care abroad, regardless of reason, it is important to research and understand all the issues to best guarantee safe outcomes.  For comprehensive information about medical tourism, pick up a copy of the recently published Complete Idiots Guide to Medical Tourism, by Patrick Marsek.   This book spells out all the options, pricing estimates, destinations, and pertinent information for a safe and stress-free medical retreat.

June 16, 2009

Healthcare Reform — Which Way Do We Go?

It now appears all but certain that healthcare reform is coming, perhaps sooner rather than later. As the US Congress and health industry lobbyists gather inside the Washington, D.C. Beltway, the atmosphere for dramatic change is boiling through the halls of K Street office buildings and stretching straight to the chambers of our nation’s Capital. But what will this change mean to average American citizens? 

Although the final details of the healthcare reform bill have yet to be concluded, according to Dr. Bernadine Healy in “7 Ways Health Reform Is Going to Affect You,” in this weeks issue of US News & World Report, “enough common threads have emerged to indicate that people should start looking beyond the headlines now for an idea of how the new system will affect them personally” In this article, Dr. Bernadine highlights seven ways that our healthcare experience will change as a result.   

The common thread of these changes entails massive taxation and redistribution from one sector of our economy to another. However, this multi-trillion dollar undertaking will impact everyone, as targeted consumptions taxes will likely be levied on items from sodas to wine and much in-between. 

Aside for the huge spending required to overhauling our ailing healthcare system there was one point that is gaining more traction as a valid alternative to the ever-increasing price, which is referred to as medical tourism, or treatment abroad.  

For many years now many uninsured and underinsured Americans have been traveling to foreign countries to undergo surgical procedures ranging from hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, total disc replacements, and hysterectomies, to all forms of cosmetic and dental procedures. 

According to Dr. Healy, medical tourism may “become routine as a way to save insurance plans as much as 80 percent of the cost.” With this much savings it is easy to see why medical tourism is gaining so much attention as the debate for change heat’s up.   

However, when considering all the benefits of medical travel, the patient’s safety should not be overlooked. There are many issues to consider when traveling thousands of miles away from home to undergo surgery. The logistics alone are a major undertaking and the margins for error are daunting. This is where the use of a medical tourism facilitator can ease the potential pitfalls of a medical retreat. Medical tourism facilitators like MedRetreat guide each individual through a highly structured process from the very beginning until well after the patient has returned home to best guarantee a safe and stress free experience. 

Medical tourism is not brand new concept in the U.S. — Thousands of North Americans have already laid the path for this industry to begin serving the mainstream.

June 8, 2009

The Benefits of Medical Outsourcing

It’s understandable that a large percentage of Americans have a very negative image of outsourcing in today’s globally competitive economic environment.  Over the past two decades many American employees in the manufacturing sector have experienced first-hand the adverse effects of their jobs being shipped to China where the wages are a small fraction in comparison.  The mass media, along with politically expedient politicians have also been decrying the loss of jobs in mass to lower wage countries like Mexico, China, and India. 

In more recent years, we have been witnessing this outsourcing as it has moved up the value chain and impacting white-color jobs, such as software development, accounting work, legal documentation, and even medical imaging analysis. 

As the debate on the pros and cons of outsourcing rages on, a new phenomenon has been picked up by the mass media that is referred to as “medical tourism.” Simply defined, medical tourism is the practice of traveling outside the U.S. for medical procedures ranging from hip and knee replacements, spinal fusions, artificial disc replacements, hysterectomies, to all forms of cosmetic and dental procedures. 

Although traveling great distances for medical care is certainly not a new phenomenon, uninsured and underinsured Americans have discovered that globalization has mostly leveled the playing field in terms of quality and technology at many hospitals around the world and are able to achieve substantial cost savings through global currency arbitrage. 

To be sure, medical tourism is not the end-all solution to our ever growing healthcare crisis here in the U.S.  That being said, the outsourcing of medical care affords significant benefits that should not be overlooked.   

The Benefits of Medical Outsourcing

  1. People suffering in tremendous pain, but can’t afford the high cost of care in the U.S., have an immediate and cost effective solution by traveling to a world class hospital for their procedure.
  2. The growing shortage of doctors and surgical specialists will be addressed as the domestic market is expanded to a global market.
  3. Medical tourism is creating smarter and more demanding consumers of heath as they seek out options beyond their local providers. 
  4. Medical tourism is placing the responsibility and management of healthcare in the hands of the individual where it should be as people are nudged into seeking out new options. 
  5. Competition has always been the American way and we all know that it vastly improves products and services, while lowering prices at the same time.  Medical tourism is already beginning to make a small impact on the pricing of many procedures by providing patients bargaining power that never existed before. 

There are of course many other benefits to medical outsourcing.  These points simply provide some very important positive factors to the debate on medical outsourcing.  For those concerned that medical tourism will threaten the jobs of healthcare providers in the U.S., it is extremely unlikely.  For starters, emergency cases must be treated immediately and do not have the time to travel.  Also, there is no need for people to travel for healthcare if they are insured here in the U.S.  

For more information about medical tourism and healthcare outsourcing options, please visit MedRetreat.  MedRetreat was established in 2003 to protect and assist Americans in seeking healthcare outside the U.S.  MedRetreat has developed a proprietary and highly structured process to best guarantee a safe and stress free medical travel experience.

June 1, 2009

As The Healthcare Debate Continues, Is There An Immediate Alternative to Medical Access?

According to the recent article “The Death of U.S. Healthcare,” by Dick Morris, in “The Hill,” the  $2 trillion cost savings presented to the Obama Administration by the health insurers and providers earlier this month will not solve our healthcare crisis.  For all intensive purposes it appears that our democratically controlled Government will proceed in establishing a form of nationalized healthcare system, where access to all will be guaranteed  to all.

However, the “elephant in the room” in our national healthcare debate is that of simple economics.  Healthcare is not an infinite resource.  There are only so many doctors and hospitals at any given point in time.  Although guaranteeing healthcare access to all may seem like the nice or right thing to do in a society, there may not be enough doctors to go around.  As Mr. Morris points out, “our national inventory of 800,000 doctors is growing at only about 1 percent year .  To stretch these doctors to treat 50 million more people is possible only through rationing.”  

To be sure, our out-dated healthcare system is starving for vast reform and will require the attention of the best and brightest minds.   But our capitalistic approach has created the most advanced healthcare system in the world where new technology and drugs are saving the lives of millions of people.  Are we sure that we want to go down this road of nationalization?  Many advanced economies, including Canada and England have nationalized systems and they don’t offer many successes that we should be attempting to emulate.   

As this debate continues, many uninsured and underinsured people suffering in pain has found a viable and immediate solution to their pain through medical tourism, or traveling to a foreign country for medical procedures. Many regions of the world offer world-class medical care at a mere fraction of the cost in the U.S.  To learn more about medical travel, please visit MedRetreat, a U.S.-based medical tourism facilitation agency that connects patients to their affiliate hospital network in 10 countries.

May 26, 2009

Considering Medical Tourism – Inform Your Doctor

If you are considering traveling abroad for medical treatment, what is commonly referred to as “medical tourism,”  your doctor will most likely not support your decision and will advise you to remain in the U.S.  Such advice is certainly to be expected. To begin with, your local doctors in the U.S. are concerned for your safety and well-being and do not have the same information that you have about the hospital and doctor that you will administer you care abroad.

However, if you have diligently researched and obtained all the pertinent information about the hospital and doctor that will be treating you abroad, you may want to schedule a brief appointment with your U.S. doctor to share and discuss all the information that you have gathered. After your doctor sees all the board certifications, credentials, and accreditations of your chosen doctor and hospital, he/she will most likely support your decision and even offer follow-up care, if needed, upon your return home. 

Rest assured that the US is not the only country that has rigorous healthcare standards and strong patient rights.  Joint Commission International (JCAHO within the US) accredits many hospitals throughout the world. If fact, you may be surprised to learn that your local hospital has lost accreditation due to poor quality standards.  Check to see if your hospital is accredited by the JCAHO.

One of the most efficient and reliable ways of obtaining detailed information about foreign hospitals and doctors is to work with a reputable medical tourism facilitation agency, like MedRetreat.  Such agencies will have long-established working relationships with their affiliate hospitals and can quickly connect you to their provider network.

May 21, 2009

More Americans Considering Medical Tourism

According to a new Gallup Poll, more and more Americans are considering medical tourism as an alternative to their pain, rather than waiting on Congress to overhaul our health care system and mandate a national delivery system.  With approximately 50 million uninsured citizens and another 25 million underinsured, our system has simply priced too many people out of the market for common medical procedures such as cancer treatment, heart bypass, hip or knee replacements, and cosmetic surgery. As a result, many Americans have begun seeking treatment overseas, where the price of such procedures is a small fraction of the same treatment in the U.S. 

According to the Gallup Poll, almost 30% of the respondents indicated that they would consider treatment abroad for medical procedures such as heart bypass, hip or knee replacement, cosmetic, and cancer. 

When asked about their willingness to travel abroad for medical care without health insurance 51% of the respondents indicated that they would consider it, “assuming equal quality and significantly cheaper cost.” 

The results of this poll indicate that more Americans are learning that medical tourism is a viable option to alleviating their pain without destroying their financial health. 

For more information about medical tourism, please visit MedRetreat, the leading U.S.-based medical tourism facilitation agency.

May 18, 2009

Medical Tourism – Your Hotel Accommodations

The hotel stay is an integral part of the medical tourism experience and should not be overlooked. Once released from the overseas hospital, you will most likely proceed to a hotel to continue your recuperation before flying home. On average, the typical length of time spent in a hotel post-op is between 7 to 14 days, of course depending on the procedure performed. The price, amenities, comfort, security and proximity to the hospitals vary substantially in all the different medical travel destinations.

If you are working with a reputable medical tourism agency, they have hand selected the hotels that they offer for the purposes of recuperation. Check with your agent to insure that the hotels that they are offering meet all the criteria that are important to you, and even better, check to see if that have personally stayed there. Chances are, if your agent has been in business long enough to have developed a good reputation, they have had many clients that have stayed in their hotel affiliates, meaning that they have more bargaining power to insure that any dissatisfaction you encounter will be dealt with immediately. Keep in mind that the majority of your stay will likely be in the hotel, so you don’t want to overlook this important factor

Important Hotel Amenities  For a Medical Retreat 

  • Meals
  • Room for companion
  • Private rooms
  • Television (English Language programs)
  • Internet Access – Wi-Fi or Ethernet Connection
  • Mini Refrigerators
  • Showers
  • Sitting Stool for Shower
  • Welcome kit – Soap and towels
  • Electrical outlets – voltage converters
  • Handicap Access
  • Frequent Linen Changes
  • Attentive Customer Service
  • Experience in Hosting Medical Tourists
  • Pool and Exercise Room for Physical Therapy 

For more information about medical tourism, please visit MedRetreat.

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