Who Travels for Medical Care?
When you think of a medical tourist you might be tempted to picture a khaki-clad
adventurer – a la Indiana Jones or Lara Croft – macheteing a path through
the jungle in search of a long lost elixir. Romanticism aside, medical tourists
are just like you and me; they have simply made an educated (and usually thoroughly
researched decision) to travel to greener healthcare pastures (don’t let the
desert around Las Vegas fool you!).
Patients from all walks of life and from many regions in the U.S. and abroad are
currently traveling for medical care. In the United States, medical tourism patients
can be grouped into three broad categories:
- Self-Pay Patients
- Uninsured or Underinsured
- Corporate Insured Market
Self-Pay Patients are those patients who are paying out-of-pocket for their medical
procedure or treatment. Currently much of the outbound medical tourism (from the
U.S. abroad) is made up of self-pay patients. The majority of these patients are
uninsured or underinsured, or seeking elective procedure options usually not covered
by insurance. Underinsured patients are those who have health insurance coverage,
however, their policies may high deductibles or high co-insurance.
The Corporate Insured Market on the other hand, is made up of individuals who have
access to healthcare options through their employer. In some instances, for example,
an employer might send high level employees to a Las Vegas hospital for executive
physical exams. In other instances, a company that self-funds its employees’
medical plan will outsource healthcare services to hospitals out of state or even
out of country, for the same reasons. The motivation for the employer in both examples
is to lower healthcare costs and provide better value.
Patients traveling for medical care may not be searching for a magical elixir; however,
they are looking to improve or maintain their quality of life through procedures
such as executive health check-ups, fertility treatments, weight loss surgery, cosmetic
surgery, cardiac surgery, orthopedic surgery and dental treatments.
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