We placed this article in the PHM Emerging Markets Healthcare News Feed a couple of weeks ago and want to quickly comment.
This article explains two key elements we have been claiming as the future of medical tourism: insurance company contracts and regional (e.g. close distance) travel requirements.
We wrote in the July issue of this publication that medical tourism’s future is more about airplanes full of UK pensioners getting knee surgeries in Poland AND paid by the NHS, than wealthy Americans and face-lifts in Bangkok. (An excellent report on future trends is contained in SwissRe’s Sigma No.6/2007. Available online at Swissre.com)
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina (BCBS-SC) is contracting with hospitals around the world. However, they claim no customers have used their contracted hospitals yet…..Maybe that’s due to the fact the hospitals are in Thailand and Ireland. Ok, perhaps their customers in Boston might skip across the pond to Ireland for a hip replacement. But with all this excitement let’s remember: it is unlikely BCBS-SC would even have customers in Boston.
But I do like their interest in Costa Rica. Think regional BCBS-SC. South Korea?
A word of warning: With the real numbers of patients right now flooding into such hospitals as Bumrungrad and Parkway, hospitals are in a good position. The next stage will be a challenge for those hospitals looking to contract with payors. The insurance companies that come knocking on their doors, much like BSBS-SC, will arrive with full knowledge of that hospital’s operations, capacity, and prospects. And like any hospital in the US knows, those insurance companies WILL drive down prices…even those prices already considered low by western standards…..HK