Medical tourism agencies take operations overseas

This is a bit troubling…

From CNN Money:

While disruptive to U.S.-based hospitals and HMOs, the overseas stampede is already spawning a brand-new business opportunity: medical tourism agencies. Not only do these companies act as middlemen between patients and foreign physicians, but they also find hospitals, schedule surgeries, buy airline tickets, reserve hotel rooms, and, yes, even plan sightseeing tours for recovering patients. Most important, they aim to reassure customers that cheap does not equal poor quality.

The best balm for anyone setting up a medical tourism agency is this: There are no licensing requirements, either in the United States or overseas. And thanks to free Internet phone services and online advertising, operating costs are relatively low.

“I see the market exploding,” says Ted Mohr, an American who runs the Adventist Hospital in Penang, Malaysia, whose non-national customers now make up more than 30 percent of the institution’s $32 million annual business (up from less than 5 percent a decade ago). “American health care is getting too expensive for too many people.”

Europe, where Polish dentists advertise in in-flight magazines and budget airline Ryanair (Charts) promotes trips to cheap medical havens like Hungary, is ahead of the curve. But U.S. entrepreneurs are beginning to catch up.

MedRetreat, based in Odenton, Md., sent its first patient overseas two years ago. This year MedRetreat expects to ship 320 patients, mostly for cosmetic surgery, to partner hospitals in Brazil, Thailand, and Turkey. The average length of stay: 17 days.

Patrick Marsek, MedRetreat’s managing director, says the company makes most of its money through commissions for booking hotel rooms and by pocketing the 20 percent discount on treatment costs that its partner hospitals grant in exchange for referrals.

Revenue is in the six-figure range, Marsek claims, adding that it will hit $1 million before long – especially now that he’s looking to branch into more lucrative procedures like spinal fusions and hip resurfacings. “We’re getting hundreds of inquiries a week,” he says. “We’ve got our hands full.” Marsek doesn’t have any medical training.

Neither does Ken Erickson, who was running a fund-raising website in 2004 when a friend who owns call centers in India started talking about that country’s first-rate private hospitals. Erickson, 44, hopped a plane to New Delhi, where he toured hospitals and met U.S.-trained doctors. His first thought: “My God, this is the perfect arbitrage situation. Buy below market and sell below market.”

In May, Erickson founded GlobalChoice Healthcare, an Albuquerque, N.M., company with $1.5 million in angel funding and 14 employees. The startup has teamed up with medical providers in Costa Rica, India, Panama, and Singapore. It also has a deal with the five-star Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces chain in India.

In June, GlobalChoice sent a patient to Punjab for a hip replacement that cost about $13,000, including airfare and a 20-day hotel stay. The estimated cost in the United States for the surgery alone? $40,000.

Erickson believes that the big money in medical tourism is in two markets: uninsured retirees ages 50 to 65 for whom Medicare hasn’t yet kicked in, and self-insured companies that can no longer afford benefits for workers. He has met with Fortune 100 companies, though “they want to see the market mature first,” he admits. If they do sign up, Erickson believes, he’s sitting on a $500 million gold mine.

He has reason to be optimistic. Blue Ridge Paper Products, a Canton, N.C., paper manufacturer, may soon allow its 5,500 employees and dependents to go to India for certain company-insured treatments.

In West Virginia, a legislator is pushing a bill that would give incentives to state workers for seeking treatments overseas. “The early adoption has begun,” says Arnold Milstein, a Mercer consultant hired by PlanetHospital, a Los Angeles-based medical referral startup, to strike deals to coordinate foreign-based care on behalf of employers and insurers.

What can I say, it is their bodies, but I don’t like employers pushing this on their employees.

The biggest cost in healthcare is lawsuits, so of course the health care is cheaper in countries without rampant lawsuit problems. This is actually a call for americans to wake up and demand tort reform. We have got to reign in these lawsuit awards or we are going to have a serious health care crisis in this country. This is just the beginning, the tip of the iceberg if you will. But, we are doing it to ourselves and have no one else to blame.

Hat tip: Uncooperative Citizen, Well Seasoned

Uncooperative Radio podcast 07-29-06 Part One

We decided to break the show up into 30 minute podcasts to make it easier to download.

In this segment we talk about Gun politics and Minimum Wage.

Brennan Center – Chicago minimum wage
Chicago Sun Times – Chicago minimum wage
NRA – Michigan Castle Doctrine
MSNBC -Mayor Bloomberg sued over anti-gun lawsuits

Inflation May Eat Up Gains in Pay, But we Have Bigger Problems

FNC is reporting that base salaries may fall behind inflation due to companies shifting from raising base pay to bonuses and performance based salary raises.

They also cite rising costs in health care benefits as a problem, over 6%. They say it has risen to about 7000.00 per employee and that is not chump change.

I don’t know if it is a bad thing to reward your employees who perform over those that do not. It would be nice if the base pay kept up with inflation and then we talked bonuses, but companies need to show profits to stay in business.

Ya know, the Left and Democrats are always hot on workers salaries and rights, which once was a real problem, but without an employer the worker has no job and that means zero income; or un-employment pay. We have to understand how to balance these concerns and not just think of workers. We need to think about employers as well, or there will be no workers.

That said, I am no longer defending Wal-Mart. I just heard that they tell their suppliers to go oversees or they won’t do business with them. That is not being competitive that is being un-American. Due to this fact, Sears has merged with Kmart and are pushing the same policies. We cannot keep losing jobs overseas and maintain a middle class in this country.

I believe we are reaching a point where you will see that “free trade” is going to ruin this country. First world countries cannot have free trade with third world countries and not suffer, nor can they compete for the labor market.

What is going to happen is third world countries will prosper and we will suffer. We are seeing this with China now rising as an economic power thanks to our trade policies.

All you people out there that said trade would transform China into a free democratic country should now admit they were wrong and shut up. Don’t tell me we should open trade with Cuba because that will turn them free, because this concept has already been proven wrong.

Democrats Fiscally Conservative??

When did the Democrat party become the fiscal conservative party? There is currently a battle over an amendment to the Senate budget called paygo. Which stands for Pay As You Go. Sounds good right? The amendment would mandate that legislation to raise spending or cut taxes would need the support of 60 of the 100 senators unless it was accompanied by enough spending cuts or tax increases to offset its effect on the deficit. Well this makes sense to me. But guess who is fighting it? The Republicans! Guess who is pushing it? The Democrats! The world is not right anymore. Nothing makes sense to me any longer.

The Senate Budget Committee rejected the Paygo amendment last week by a party-line vote of 12 Republicans opposed and 10 Democrats in favor. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio). Dianne Feinstein? I always disagree with this women! How do I find my self on her side? There must be something I am missing that makes this Bill wrong. There just has to be a reason!

Nussle and his counterpart on the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), have said they object to paygo because it would come down harder on tax cuts than on spending increases. The strictures of paygo would be brought to bear against all tax-cut legislation, but programs that guarantee benefits to qualified individuals, such as Social Security, have automatic increases built in so no legislation is needed to authorize the larger spending. And because there is no legislation for those increases, their argument goes, paygo would not apply.

Aha! I knew it! I knew there had to be a catch! My world is now right again. Whew, that was a close one.