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Economic Turmoil Creates Boom for Medical Tourism
Date:4/3/2009

ourism their most attractive option."

It's not just individual patients who are attracted to the significant savings of overseas care. Employers and insurance companies are forced to more closely examine their health plans to protect against health insurance premiums that have risen 73 percent since 2000, according to the National Coalition on Health Care. This has spurred some employers to cover fewer employees by eliminating benefits for retirees or by imposing longer gaps between hiring and benefit eligibility dates. Other employers have been steadily increasing co-pays and co-premiums (employee contributions increased 145 percent since 2000 according to NCHC), and still others are shaving costs by narrowing the list of covered procedures.

"Progressive companies are finding there's another, better way that protects employee loyalty while saving money," Hoeberechts said. "By adding a medical tourism option into their health plans and providing incentives for employees to travel overseas for costly procedures, there are big savings for employers, plus employees gain expanded options and the potential of sharing their employer's savings: a win-win. Savings in the range of 85 percent is hard to ignore during the best of times, and imperative to examine during perilous times."

Savings of this magnitude come from many factors. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute found that costs at U.S. hospitals are nearly twice as high as in the 13 industrial nations studied. Significantly higher salaries, insurance and the costs of equipment and administration are the leading reasons for the disparity.

In 2008, two significant events signaled heightened commercial interest in medical tourism: Swiss Re Commercial Insurance started offering medical travel costs as part of its stop loss policy to clients in all 50 states, selecting WorldMed Assist as its preferred third party logistics company. Also during
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