Many Americans mostly rely on health insurance to help cover medical expenses. But as the cost of health insurance premiums increase, fewer people are able to afford the coverage. Lack of insurance can place a patient at risk for serious medical problems. One-third of those who are uninsured are unable to afford the cost of the medicine. The lack of timely care may mean patients who do eventually seek help are sicker and require more costly treatment. Many patients wait to seek help in an emergency room. Similarily many UK patients have to wait months for their turn in the NHS for treatment or the other option is costly private treatment in a private UK hospital.
The high cost of health care is leading some people to seek medical care abroad – in such places as Thailand, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore or South Africa. The trend is being called, medical tourism.
Financial savings are a big incentive for medical tourism. In some places a medical procedure can cost as little as one-tenth of the same treatment in the U.S. Add in airfare, hotel stays, meals – even extra vacation tours – and the cost is often still significantly less than in the U.S.
Hospitals that actively seek foreign patients rely on word-of-mouth to get patients. So they go out of their way to ensure patients are happy with their care. There are often private, luxurious rooms and extra nurses and health care aides to assist patients.
Several companies provide packaged services to patients seeking overseas surgery. Consumers need to make sure they read the fine print and understand the risks of overseas travel and total expected costs (including possible unexpected or uncovered expenses) before signing a contract.
Bone marrow transplant, surgical oncology, cord blood transplants, transplants of the heart, lung, liver are all possible at lower costs in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and India than most developed countries where health insurance continues to shoot up in a heavily taxed public health-care system.
A chance to visit India and the Far East while healing and treating ailments at affordable costs has led patients from the developed nations to utilize health services in India at a fraction of the costs in the West. Five to seven per cent of Escorts' patients are understood to be from abroad. Most patient traffic is from West Asia, South East Asia and Africa. International health insurance companies abroad are looking to forge partnerships with renowned specialty hospitals for Non Resident Indians (NRIs) to combine their treatment in India with their annual family visits.
Most Indian states have either established themselves as destinations for health care and tourism or are building medical brand images. Add to this, Yogic healing, Transcendental Meditation (TM) along with alternate therapies of ayurveda in India has been repackaged and redefined and goes hand in hand with India's rise in 'Health Tourism "also called Medical Tourism. Further, impetus has come from corporate such as the Tatas, Fortis, Max, Wockhardt, Piramal, and the Escorts group who are investing in setting up of modern hospitals in major cities. Many have in fact built health packages designed for patients, including airport pickups, visa assistance, boarding and lodging.
With advanced medical and biotechnological progress, India along with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are leaders in selling healthcare the world over. With India's infrastructure and technology quite at par with those in the USA, UK and Europe, also boasts of some of the best hospitals and treatment centers in the world. A favourite world getaway, India as a health and tourism destination is here to stay.
"With yoga, meditation, ayurveda, allopathy, and other systems of medicine, India offers a unique basket of services to an individual that is difficult to match by other countries," the CII study said. Clinical outcomes in India are at par with the world's best centre since India has internationally qualified and experienced specialists.
The ease in international travel, the improvement of technology and standards of care in many of the Far Eastern countries and in India score a point with patients in Britain or Canada who have to rely on the heavily taxed public health-care system for routine heart surgery, a hip resurfacing or a hip replacement which sometimes take years to be treated. Appointments for treatments are quicker in India.
Lately, the Indian Government launched the six month medical Visa in 2005. The Visa allows a foreigner to stay for a year for medical treatment in India. In addition, the Government has also introduced policy measures such as the National Health Policy which recognizes the treatment of international patients as an export, allowing private hospitals treating international patients to enjoy the benefits of lower import duties, an increase in the rate of depreciation (from 25 per cent to 40 per cent) for life-saving medical equipment and several tax sops.