News of the Day ... In Perspective3/21/2007
BC/BS outsourcing surgery to Thailand; medical tourism on the rise
Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina has formed a partnership with Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand, and hopes to expand its services to two more hospitals abroad in the near future.
BC/BS also contracts with World Access to offer a web-based service called Companion Global Healthcare, which helps make hospital appointments and travel arrangements.
Insurers save money when patients go overseas for medical services. The possibility also increases their bargaining clout with state-side hospitals.
More than 500,000 Americans went overseas for medical care in 2005, according to the National Coalition on Health Care.
One patient paid $7,000 for a face lift at a hospital/luxury hotel instead of $25,000 in the U.S. Heart valve replacements cost $9,500 in India, compared with $230,000 in the U.S. (The State.com 2/10/07).
Low-to-nonexistent malpractice claims as well as lower labor costs account for much of the difference in price. But another factor is cost-shifting, as from uninsured or publicly insured patients such as Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.