Citing the rising cost of healthcare in the United States, several insurers have taken a page out of travel guides for “medical tourism” and begun toying with the idea of sending their patients abroad for routine surgeries. In essence, these large providers with recognizable names – Aetna, UnitedHealth and Blue Cross Blue Shield – are attempting to create global health systems by buying up networks in far flung locations from Thailand to Costa Rica. In an effort to cash in on the significant savings – some estimates place the number at $33 billion – insurers are prepared to go the extra mile, offering incentives to patients who make the journey, ranging from waiving co-payments and deductibles to booking all of the travel arrangements.
And while no one is questioning the level of care that these international hospitals can provide, some critics feel that despite the financial windfall of such a move, the outsourcing option fails to address the core issues of a broken American Healthcare system. They argue that the focus should be placed on preventive medicine so that problems don’t escalate to the point where expensive surgeries and other procedures are ever necessary. However, others respectfully disagree, seeing this plan as an opportunity to break the current mindset of “surgery-as-profit-centers” by forcing our medical institutions to remain competitive in the world’s arena.