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Global Healthcare

By: Steve Johnson

4/25/2008 - 16 Comments

Forget national health care, global healthcare maybe the next direction for the healthcare industry.

The rising cost of healthcare is out of control as several million are now uninsured. The concept of national healthcare would be even more expensive and taxing on society – yet something has to be done.

Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism is the buss word that is starting to gain momentum.  The Wikipedia definition is:

“Medical tourism (also called medical travel, health tourism or global healthcare) is a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of traveling across international borders to obtain health care.”

Medical tourism is right around the corner, as large national American health insurance companies (Like Aetna, United Health, Blue Cross Blue Shield) may soon be promoting heart surgeries and joint replacements in India and the Philippines as it is cheaper. They are currently conducting studies that are finding the quality is just as good if not better in some measures.

Medical tourism can also provide patients with new procedures that are not yet approved in the US by the FDA.  The question is will congress allow America health insurance providers to open their coverage of medical procedures that are outside the US?  What about currency exchange fluctuations? Who will cover the cost of transferring money from one currency to the next and any additional costs due to currency fluctuations? 

The concept of medical tourism is not a new one, but the expansion of the international airline industry has helped to make it more practical for common procedures.

Your Money or Your Life

David M. Cutler, author of “Your Money or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America's Health Care System” an economics professor at Harvard and health-care adviser in the Clinton administration, says that the advances made in health care over the past 50 years have been quite positive and have contributed to longer and more productive lives. Cutler says that everyone much be insured so that the uninsured do not have to rely on the medical system as a whole.

Cutler says, in around about way, that we need to keep spending money on health care because the investment is worth it to keep the baby boomers healthy and working into their 70's. If we don't, they will become a burden to our society and bankrupt the country. With China and India having billions of people, and an aging population, it is a compelling argument for us to continue to be the leading provider of healthcare to the world.

The low value of the dollar has also continued to lower the cost of our health services with respect to foreigners. The national healthcare providers should also consider expanding their coverage to international consumers, creating a global custom base. Although, this is unlikely to happen anytime soon because of the huge differences in the legal system between nations, but it’s an idea with a lot of growth potential. If some kind of agreement could be made between nations, this could open the US health services to foreigners to travel to the US for healthcare procedures.

Access to Information

The Internet is providing more and more information to the consumers just like it has done with the car insurance industry over the last decade. Customers now have access to information to help them compare prices and terms of car insurance providers, which has changed the entire car insurance industry, forcing more competition and lower prices. The big question is if access to more information about competing prices and quality healthcare procedures can do the same for the healthcare industry?  If so, healthcare providers will become more and more specialized as they are forces to be more competitive with healthcare providers around the globe.

This is an exciting time for the healthcare industry, with a lot of potential for the US healthcare services to serve the growing demand of the global aging population.

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