Blog | Thursday, October 2, 2008

What's the deal with medical tourism?

You've probably heard about the trend of Americans going abroad to save money on health care--it's been pretty popular in the media lately.

But a couple of recent articles in the Wall Street Journal raise interesting questions about this apparent trend. The first highlights a new pattern of employers encouraging workers to travel within the U.S. to get cheaper care, although they don't seem to have found any patients who have actually done that. The second article (which mysteriously cites the exact same employer as the first!) addresses the idea of employers going so far as to pay their workers to get treatment overseas.

A union rep quoted in the story has some dire predictions about what this scenario could mean for patients and docs. "You create a slippery slope where medical tourism starts out as an option, maybe even an attractive option, but over a short period of time I believe will become mandated."

What do you think? Is your job--like that of so many customer service reps--going to be outsourced to India? How much of a trend is medical tourism, really? Have any of your patients gone overseas for surgery or some other treatment?

Special thanks to reader Pat C. for pointing us to this topic. Also, we swear we recently saw an article about U.S. docs going overseas to provide cheap care to visiting American patients, but now we can't find the story anywhere. The first reader who sends us a link to that piece of irony wins a prize.