Herrick said that cost and quality-of-care tend to be higher in Singapore than in Thailand or India, but all three offer extremely good quality and could be considered for more complex procedures.
But he suggested that people go somewhere closer to home -- such as Costa Rica or Mexico -- or stay in the United States for procedures that are generally less exorbitant. Airfare and hotel costs can be prohibitive. Also, Herrick said, "most people would prefer to find a place not quite so far away as a 16-hour plane ride."
Traveling to other countries for medical care "is in its infancy," Herrick said. "I don't think any insurer is doing it in a major, major way. People are testing the waters slowly. Most of the interest really seems to lie with self-insured plans."
According to a small survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, about 11 percent of employers offer overseas benefit options, although it was unclear how extensive the benefits were or if employees were using them.
The goal, proponents of the concept say, is for everyone -- patients, employers, insurance companies -- to end up paying less.
To learn more about this phenomenon, visit the Medical Tourism Association.
SOURCES: Devon Herrick, Ph.D., senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas; David Boucher president, Companion Global Healthcare, Columbia, S.C.; National C
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