NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 6, 2006

Some U.S. businesses and insurance companies are outsourcing health care services to the developing world as a way to reduce health spending.

  • Last year, about 500,000 U.S. residents traveled to countries like India, Singapore and Thailand for medical treatment. 
  • The overseas hospitals, typically known for offering low-cost plastic surgery, are now gaining reputations for heart, knee and back operations.

Medical tourism facilitators like California-based PlanetHospital are already working to make the journey less stressful for patients traveling abroad by arranging everything from visas and airport pickup to sightseeing.

Many doctors working in facilities catering to medical tourists are trained abroad, often in the United States or Europe:

  • About 100 foreign hospitals have been approved by the international arm of the Chicago-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which also accredits American hospitals.
  • Six countries in Asia have accredited facilities, including Bangkok's Bumrungrad; five in India, with three belonging to the Apollo Hospital group; and 11 in Singapore.

Critics say that U.S. patients face language and cultural barriers and other issues associated with traveling.  In addition, medical malpractice claims are rare in countries like Thailand and India.

Source: Malcolm Foster and Margie Mason, "Businesses may move health care overseas," Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 2, 2006.


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