medical care in Thailand

Imagine this: you've come to the doctor for some non-routine medical issue. Surgery is required. So your insurance company sends you a plane ticket to Thailand, and off you go, to get your medical care in Bangkok.

Now, this is not at all a crazy idea - I've been following for some time the establishment of Thai hospitals that offer world class service. After September 11th, there was a lot of opportunity to offer medical care to rich individuals from the Middle East, who would ordinarily have gone to the US, but were no longer welcome. An article in the IHT back in 2005 discussed the topic.

But up until now, I've thought of medical tourism as a way to get around an inefficient health care system - many Brits, for example, often go to India to bypass the waitlist. So the idea that the medical systems might actually be joining up, as put forward in the economist, is new for me:

the Asian hospital operators are now courting American health insurers and employers desperate to rein in soaring costs. Bumrungrad's [a Thai hospital] marketing chief, Ruben Toral, who was in America this week for talks with insurers and big employers, says they were very keen. BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina already offers Bumrungrad's cut-price treatments to members whose policies do not cover the surgery they need.
The Economist notes, quite rightly, that this could be viewed as outsourcing. But it also offers up some questions - how is it possible that a flight around the world, first world equipment, trained doctors, etc. can be shipped around the world, and the whole package still ends up costing less than local care? Something doesn't add up.
Nikki commented:
One word: HEDIS. Now, I know we tout that as the root of all that was evil; however, if you think about what goes into HEDIS and why... I'm guessing there the cost factors.
on Mon Mar 12 15:11:46 2007

David commented:
Yeah - I think all of the various oversight and accreditation like HEDIS add costs. But marketing and stuff also cost money. I think the biggest thing about all the different stickers these places pay for is how little they actually mean - we both know HEDIS was a total nightmare, yet those places probably got a sticker for the most part.
on Mon Mar 12 16:24:04 2007

Nikki commented:
Very true... but HEDIS is only one piece of the stickah... there are whole departments of hospitals, health plans, etc that do nothing but work on the stickers. Now, stickers mean I have a job, but I would glad change careers in lieu of the bigger picture. What I truly meant, though, by HEDIS is that out healthcare system is so focused on disease management rather than disease prevention that we allow people to get sick, deny them care until they can no longer survive without it and then the price skyrockets. It is why the ROI in my particular bizness is so high... if it costs 200 a year to keep someone healthy, what the hell are we not paying that but paying 2000 because we let them get sick? HEDIS is all about disease management and cashing in on people being sick as part of getting the stickers. But if we are handing out stickers, I would like a pink one :)
on Mon Mar 12 17:55:13 2007

Add a Comment
Back to the Blog