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Medical care on the move
An increase in “medical tourism” means more and more Americans are seeking healthcare in more budget-friendly countries.
By Janos Gereben
MANILA - Even as an estimate, perhaps a wishful one, the figures are staggering. According to Philippine government officials at the International Medical Travel Conference, which opened on November 22, 2007, more than 780 million patients are expected to seek care outside their country, creating a medical travel industry worth $40 billion.
The conference itself, the second such event, following last year's meeting in Singapore, seems to support assertions of a big international surge in health tourism: organizations and individual professionals from some 25 countries are participating.
"Outsourcing" medicine to India has been known for several years now; operations combined with family vacations can often cost less than the procedure alone in the U.S. But what is happening now, according to evidence at the Manila conference, is that many other countries, including the Philippines, are getting into the act, developing and publicizing high-quality facilities at attractive prices. Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Jordan are among countries making a bid for a slice of the "patients without borders" pie.
In Manila, for example, Maria M. Rebujio, the Filipina-American owner of Los Angeles' Beverly Hills Medical Group, has just opened an impressively equipped outpatient surgery center in the city's Makati district. Under the same name, using similar equipment and applying the same standards as the California branch, the clinic here offers partial facelifts, liposuction or full open rhinoplasty for about $2,300.
USC- and UCLA-graduate Dr. Steve Mark Gan is owner and chief surgeon of a large dental clinic bearing his name. At his Manila facility, root canals cost $120 per root, dental implants $800 and up.
Lower cost is not the single factor. There are patients traveling from Canada and the United Kingdom, for example, despite the existence of comprehensive health care in those countries. Being insured and having access to care in a timely fashion don't always coincide, prompting those in need of urgent surgery to travel where it's more immediately available.
For more information on medical tourism, click here.
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Janos Gereben, originally from Budapest, has worked as writer and editor for publications in New York (Herald-Tribune, UPI, Time-Life), Honolulu (Star-Bulletin), San Jose (Mercury-News), and - for the past two decades - in San Francisco, at the Post Newspaper Group, Classical Voice, and S.F. Examiner. He works as arts editor, music and theater critic, technology journalist, but for fun, he writes about movies and travel. Special favorites: London, Berlin, Morocco, the Philippines, and Iceland - where he was pickled, happily, in volcanic, sulphurous Blue Lagoon, shown here. Not visible: the swimsuit immortalized here.
All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.
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