Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fly to France for a face lift?

If you were facing a decision about having elective surgery, would you give some thought to where you’d have it? I don’t mean which hospital. I mean which country.

That’s the idea behind medical tourism – a relatively new approach that involves an individual traveling to another country to seek medical care.

In 2007 more than 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for outbound medical care, according to a new report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. The report, “Medical Tourism: Update and Implications,” indicates that since 2007, medical tourism has experienced a slow down driven by the economic recession and consumers putting off elective medical procedures over the past two years with an estimated 540,000 Americans traveling abroad for medical care in 2008 (a 20 percent decrease) and a projected 648,000 (a 10 percent decrease) doing so in 2009.

The report also notes that the economic recovery may help spur a sustainable 35 percent annual growth rate for the medical tourism industry by 2010.

“Barring any tempering factors, such as supply constraints, resistance from health plans, increased domestic competition or government policies, we project that outbound medical tourism could reach upwards of 1.6 million patients by 2012,” said Paul Keckley, Ph.D. and executive director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, based in Washington, D.C. “Medical tourism has transitioned from a cottage industry to an acceptable alternative for elective care that despite the setbacks of the economic downturn may begin to recover in 2010, as quality is better defined, new business models emerge, insurers, legislators and employers explore pilots and programs, health care providers become increasingly involved in coordinating care and consumers continue to test it out to explore savings.”

Reform's effect. Health care reform will likely propel growth in the elective outpatient market, particularly if flex account expenditures are limited to $2,000 or less, and elective cosmetic and dental procedures are not considered “basic benefits,” the study finds.


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