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As U.S. Health Row Rages, Many Seek Care In Mexico

Retired police officer Bob Ritz has health insurance that covers his medical and dental care in the United States.

But every few months he drives from his home in Tombstone, Arizona, to this small town in northern Mexico to avoid the healthcare costs that aren't paid by insurance.

Medical Tourism Insured

Earlier this month, the insurance company WellPoint announced a program that will allow employees of a Wisconsin printing company to get coverage for non-emergency surgeries in India. It's a first for WellPoint, but puts the insurer in good company. Over the past few years, some U.S. insurance companies, dismayed at losing income from uninsured Americans who get cheap surgeries abroad or clients who choose to pay out of pocket for discount foreign surgeries rather than expensive in-network co-pays, have announced plans to include foreign medical procedures among those covered by health plans.

The New Medical Tourism Market

Medical tourism is a high-growth industry being driven by globalization and rising healthcare costs in developed countries. More than thirty countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe are serving millions of medical tourists annually.

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India and Philippines are the major destinations in the Asian medical tourism market.

Paying Workers To Go Abroad For Health Care

Insured Americans are starting to see some unusual options in their health-provider networks: doctors and hospitals in Singapore, Costa Rica and other foreign destinations.`

In an effort to control rising costs, a small but growing number of insurers and employers are giving people the choice to seek treatment in other countries, a practice known as medical tourism.

What Is Medical Tourism?

Medical tourism, or ‘global healthcare’ as it’s increasingly called, involves traveling to a foreign country for a medical procedure. This industry has been growing rapidly over recent years as more and more people seek faster or cheaper alternatives to the healthcare offered in their own countries. Occasionally the medical procedure needed is urgent, but more often it is an elective treatment such as cosmetic surgery or dental care.

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