EDITORIAL

Medical Tourism Opportunities

R esidents of many foreign countries once traveled to the U.S. to seek the advanced technology and medical expertise that was only available here. However, starting about 10–15 years ago, that traffic was reversed, when U.S. citizens chose to bypass medical care offered here and travel to less developed areas of the world for better medical services. While medical tourism has been described as a global stampede for affordable care, it may more appropriately be understood as “voting with ones feet” for better value in medical care, including more innovative care. Why is this so?

In a recent article in Reason,1 Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a general surgeon, expressed amazement at the remarkable technological revolutions in medicine, from CT scans to robot-assisted surgery, since the 1970s. Yet at the same time, he also bemoaned the devolution of medicine into the nightmarish technocratic realm of Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil, where technicians, bookkeepers, and clerks preside.


  1. Singer J. How Government Killed the Medical Profession. Reason, May 2013.


First it was Medicare in the 1980s with price controls for anyone over the age of 65, along with miles of paperwork, resembling “the command-and-control models used in the Soviet bloc and the People’s Republic of China, models that were already failing spectacularly by the end of the 1980s.” The Medicare system corrupted the private insurance industry, which began the practice of using the Medicare fee schedule to serve as the basis for negotiation of compensation with the doctors and hospitals on their preferred provider lists. All of this ended up serving bureaucrats, rather than producing more quality medicinal care, and by the 1990s private insurance carriers morphed a form of health plan called a health maintenance organization (HMO).

And as things continued to deteriorate, every bureaucratic gain was a loss to medical innovation and quality.

Altogether, with skyrocketing costs and far less competition, not to mention a field day for lawyers suing physicians and winning large judgments, U.S. medicine, as we have known it, has come to an end:

• Physician-patient relationships have worsened dramatically

• A jolting move toward single-payer healthcare has occurred

• From a fiduciary relationship—between provider and consumer—U.S. medicine has deteriorated to 3rd party collectivism

• Individual services have been sacrificed to the needs of the many

• The rules of the medical establishment-insurance industry alliance are dominant

• All to the detriment of those who desire the safest, most innovative medical care

Medical tourism is growing and more than 1.6 million Americans are believed to have sought treatment abroad in 2012, to places like Asia to experience the many benefits of medical tourism in Thailand, India, or Singapore and their modern, internationally accredited hospitals, health & wellness spas, cancer centers, specialized agencies, etc., where pricing is as much as 80% less.

And it is not just the rich going to poorer places for a bit of indulgence. Nowadays, more modestly incomed people are actually moving up market to more developed places for improved, more convenient care.

Fortunately, this phenomenon is driven by marketplace forces and occurs outside of the view and control of the organized healthcare system (lest it be subverted). Medical tourism presents important concerns and challenges as well as potential opportunities for greater health. And this is why you need to be informed of how to internationalize and qualify your decisions. We are planning to publish a monthly newsletter to keep you up to date, especially on innovative and alternative medical tourism. Let us know your level of interest.

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