Today, medical tourism is a widely accepted and proven formula for top quality care at low cost. Given the manifold increase in the number of patients traveling overseas for medical and surgical care from the US, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) has recognized that surgical care has become more readily available in a wider global market, and that this phenomenon is here to stay. So, the College recently developed an official “Statement on Medical and Surgical Tourism”, which according to ACS are “consistent with the College’s longstanding advocacy position of promoting an environment of optimal care for the surgical patient”.

The College has developed several key principles (listed below) for those who choose to seek surgical care abroad. The College:

  • encourages patients to seek care of the highest quality and supports their rights to select their surgeons and health care institutions without restriction.
  • encourages its Fellows to assist all patients in reaching informed decisions concerning medical care, whether at home or abroad.
  • advises patients to consider the medical, social, cultural, and legal implications of seeking medical treatment abroad prior to deciding on a venue of care.
  • encourages patients electing to receive treatment abroad to seek care at health care institutions that have met the standards for accreditation established by recognized accrediting organizations.
  • encourages patients electing treatment abroad to seek care from surgeons and anesthesiologists certified in their specialties through a process equivalent to that established by the member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.
  • encourages patients receiving treatment abroad to obtain a complete set of medical records prior to returning home so that the details of their care are immediately available to their physicians and surgeons in the U.S. Follow-up care at home should be organized prior to travel whenever possible.
  • encourages patients contemplating medical tourism to understand the special risks of combining long international flights and certain vacation activities with anesthesia and surgical procedures.
  • opposes the imposition of provisions for mandatory referral of patients by insurers to health care institutions outside the U.S., unless such provisions are clearly and explicitly stated in the insurance contract and accepted by the subscriber.
  • supports the view that payors referring patients for mandatory treatment abroad should be responsible for the coordination and reimbursement of follow-up care in the U.S., including the management of postoperative complications, readmissions, rehabilitation, and long-term care.

Source: Statement on Medical and Surgical Tourism by ACS

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Medical Tourism Facilitator and International Insurer Partner to Provide New Protection for Medical Tourists

Press Release
January 28, 2009

Seven Corners, one of the industry’s most experienced specialty travel insurance underwriters, announces a new partnership with award-winning medical tourism facilitator, Healthbase Online, Inc. By combining Seven Corners’ experience in underwriting and administering specialty travel insurance plans, and Healthbase’s expertise in matching medical tourism patients with a world-class network of internationally accredited hospitals, the companies have developed the industry’s first custom benefits package covering medical complications to be provided to all Healthbase clients.

The strategic alliance between Seven Corners and Healthbase is founded on a shared vision to unify patients seeking medical treatments abroad with relevant medical insurance benefits specifically designed for medical tourists. By engaging the companies’ unique and expert competencies in their respective markets, the alliance will allow both companies to better serve the unique needs of medical tourists — ultimately transforming the medical tourism business by reducing patients’ medical costs before, during and after treatments abroad.

“We are the only medical travel facilitator to provide a custom insurance program to our clients as a further commitment to providing high quality medical travel services at an affordable cost,” said Saroja Mohanasundaram, CEO of Healthbase. “The insurance program enhances our clients’ satisfaction in the economic delivery of quality healthcare; whether they are seeking minor procedures like hernia surgery, or major procedures like knee replacement or spinal surgeries.”

The insurance plan provides Healthbase patients coverage for the treatment of common surgical complications such as adverse reactions to anesthesia, stroke, myocardial infarction, deep vein thrombosis, infections and other medical complications incurred during and after their treatment abroad. The insurance plan provides first dollar coverage for medical complications, which further reduces follow-up care and unexpected medical expenses for an uninsured or underinsured patient.

“The cost of the insurance plan is a fraction of the overall cost of the treatment, which in and of itself, is significantly less than the expense of treatment in the United States,” said Jim Krampen, executive officer of Seven Corners. “The medical complication benefits we designed for Healthbase clients will provide peace of mind and cover the cost to treat medical complications abroad and when they return home.”

About Healthbase:

Healthbase is a one-stop source for global medical and dental choices, connecting patients to internationally accredited providers in 14 countries including India, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. Healthbase caters to individual consumers, self-funded businesses, insurers, benefits plan consultants, third party administrators and those using Consumer Directed Healthcare Plans (CDHPs) or voluntary benefit plans. More information at http://www.healthbase.com.

About Seven Corners

Seven Corners is one of the industry’s most experienced international travel, expatriate health insurance and trip cancellation providers. For more than 15 years, Seven Corners has served the medical insurance needs of U.S. citizens traveling abroad and foreign nationals visiting the United States.

Seven Corners is a licensed Third Party Administrator as required in certain jurisdictions of the United States. Seven Corners is a Lloyd’s of London Coverholder and also enjoys underwriting authority from key AM Best “A” rated carriers, such as Nationwide Insurance Company, The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania (AIG) and Fairmont Specialty Group.

Seven Corners is a member of the U.S. Travel Insurance Association (UStiA), the Medical Tourism Association (MTA) and the International Medical Travel Association (IMTA). More information at http://www.SevenCorners.com.

Cost of surgery abroad

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The health insurer Wellpoint is testing a new program that gives covered patients the option of going to India for elective surgery, with no out-of-pocket medical costs and free travel for both the patient and a companion.

The program is being tested at Serigraph, a printing company in Wisconsin whose managers have been looking for ways to curb rising health care costs, said Dr. Razia Hashmi, chief medical officer for national accounts for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is affiliated with Wellpoint.

“This is a first for us,” Dr. Hashmi said. “We will be monitoring every aspect of this very closely, to make sure everyone is satisfied and there are good clinical outcomes.”

By the year 2010, more than 6 million Americans annually will be seeking medical treatment abroad , according to the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a consultancy. The potential savings are significant. Knee surgery that costs $70,000 to $80,000 in the United States can be performed in India for $8,000 to $10,000, including follow-up care and rehabilitation, Dr. Hashmi said. Similar savings could be achieved for such common procedures as hip replacements and spine surgery .

If other insurers follow Wellpoint, Dr. Hashmi said, the trend ultimately may pressure on United States hospitals to be more competitive in their pricing.

Critics say that’s unlikely.

“There have been some reports of hospitals that have been willing to match the prices, but I don’t know how they’re doing that,” said Howard Berliner, a professor of health policy and management at State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. “The reality is there’s just no way that most hospitals can respond to this. It’s just like any service that’s outsourced – the price is so cheap abroad that there isn’t much an American company can do about it.”

At the same time, he said, the program could potentially siphon off the healthiest, most profitable patients from a local hospital.

Dr. Hashmi predicted that the program would appeal primarily to people who have traveled abroad. Many employees of Serigraph, which has offices in India, are familiar with the country.

“The quality is comparable” to care provided in the United States, Dr. Hashmi said. All the physicians speak English, and patients can share their medical records and consult with a surgeon in India before making the trip, she said.

The pilot program arranges for patients to be picked up at the airport and provides special meals to prevent food-borne illnesses. The program complies with the American Medical Association guidelines on medical tourism and uses hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International.

Dr. Hashmi said it had actually been easier to evaluate the quality of medical care abroad than in the United States. “There is a lot more willingness to share data about complication rates, the total number of procedures and the outcomes,” Dr. Hashmi said. “We’re able to get detail per hospital and per physician.”

In addition to saving out-of-pocket costs for surgery for patients, the program could potentially help keep insurance premiums affordable, Dr. Hashmi said.

More at: NY Times

For information about affordable surgery overseas, visit Healthbase.

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