The AMA has issued medical tourism guidelines for American patients, employers and health insurance companies. At the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, we’ve written about medical tourism and how health insurance carriers are seeing it as a way to lower costs by encouraging insureds to travel abroad to get quality medical care for far less than it would cost here at home. Now the AMA is getting on board, encouraging patients to weigh the potential risks and benefits to traveling for medical care, and encouraging health insurance carriers to allow patients to select their own providers (including those overseas) and to cover any necessary post-treatment care needed once the patient returns to the US.
It’s a sad state of affairs that we’re now outsourcing even our health care. Why is the AMA not doing what needs to be done to bring the costs of US health care into line with what other countries spend? I suppose it’s good that they are acknowledging that people are seeking lower-cost alternatives in other countries. And I’m sure they would rather get the business for themselves instead of sending it overseas. But medical tourism isn’t going to be a viable solution for most of America. Most Americans don’t even have a passport, much less the desire or means to travel abroad for serious medical care. While it’s nice to have the option to get a hip replacement while on vacation in Thailand, I’d hate to see it come to a point where that’s the only way that Americans can afford a hip replacement. With the number of uninsured Americans growing at a rapid rate, and the cost of health care in this country rising far faster than inflation, what other option will people without quality health insurance have ten years from now? We cannot continue on the path we’re on now – with rising costs and decreasing numbers of people with health insurance. Our pharmaceutical industry makes record-breaking profits, and we’re sending our citizens abroad with a hearty ‘bon voyage’ to get open heart surgery. Something’s not right with that picture.