Friday, August 15, 2008

Medical tourism and its benefits

The Economist this week has a pretty long article on medical tourism – its increasing popularity and quality, benefits for both rich and poor nations, and possible objections people have raised. The premise behind medical tourism is like that of all globally-traded goods: since poor nations can offer qualified doctors at lower prices than in Western nations, consumers should choose their services.

While in the past consumers of treatment overseas were the uninsured looking for bargains, nowadays institutes and insurance companies are getting in on the game. The Economist cites two companies – including one with 27,000 workers – that are starting to offer overseas treatment options to cut costs. And it also talks of two insurance companies – Aetna and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina – that are offering customers the choice to go to first-class medical centers in Singapore and Thailand, respectively. And the growth for the industry is expected to be big: whereas last year 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for medical services, that number could reach 10 million by 2012.

And though some fear that this sort of medical segragation in poorer countries (wealthy capitalist trading city-state Singapore not withstanding) will lead to a sort of internal brain drain, the network benefits of having more skilled workers within the country are also worth taking into account. As is the possibility of native doctors returning from working in the West, and bringing their money and expertise back with them.

And then there are the benefits to Western countries seeing the flight of the "medical refugees." Western medical establishments will be more exposed to the sort of competition they lack at home, spurring them to lower prices and raise the quality of their service. That is, if government regulation of insurance providers doesn't overpower the desire of consumers and insurance companies to save money without necessarily sacrificing quality.

4 comments:

Global MD said...
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ciya said...
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ciya said...
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William Michael Mortal said...
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