Medical Tourism

by Dave

Indian hospital groups like Apollo, Fortis and Wockhardt should takeover hospitals in Latin America to increase outreach to US patients.

Americans are living longer than ever before, but at the same time they’re facing challenges presented by out-of-control medical costs and inadequate health insurance. Increasing numbers of U.S. citizens are traveling abroad to avail themselves of Asian and Latin American hospitals and medical centers, for treatments that range from something as simple as getting your teeth whitened, to procedures as major as hip replacement surgery.

According to the most recent census data, 47 million Americans have no health insurance, and 120 million are under-insured. The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based healthcare research organization, recently issued a report saying nearly half the working-age population of the U.S. risks being financially devastated if confronted with the need to pay for major surgery, either because they have no insurance or inadequate insurance.

Medical Destinations
Some of the major players in this niche in Asia are India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, while destinations in Latin America that are attracting a major share of the market include Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama.

The India Tourist Board reports that approximately 500,000 medical tourists go to Asia annually. Of this number, India receives 200,000. Medical tourism to India has been growing at 30 percent a year for the past three years, and experts estimate that, by 2012, medical tourism will be a $1 billion industry in India. Presently, the lion’s share of medical tourists traveling to India come from the Middle East, although the U.S. accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the total. It’s clear that it’s a cost-driven decision for many patients. For example, heart surgery can cost $60,000 in the U.S., but might cost $8,000 in India. When you add travel for two, and perhaps a recuperative or holiday stay, you’re still paying a fraction of what the cost would be in the U.S.

“Latin America and Mexico are extremely popular among U.S.
tourists for this form of travel simply because these regions are so close to
the U.S. border and therefore have many doctors that are U.S. certified,” says Willie Moreno, director of operations and registration for the Latin America
division of
Vacation, Adventure and Surgery