Medical Tourism and Insurance

by | Jun 30, 2022 | Issue 150, Issues | 0 comments

Increasing demand for healthcare across borders has been spurred by high-quality alternative healthcare available abroad at affordable and highly competitive rates. Employees and insurers are taking advantage of this trend...

Increasing demand for healthcare across borders has been spurred by high-quality alternative healthcare available abroad at affordable and highly competitive rates. Employees and insurers are taking advantage of this trend to save money.

Health care abroad is often more cost-effective than healthcare at home, a fact many people have realized. This means that even after considering travel expenses, accommodation and sick leaves, patients still get to save money.

Many insurance companies offer coverage, should something go wrong during a procedure performed by an international hospital. For example, should complications arise, many U.S. health insurance companies will cover their expenses, including costly life-saving surgeries.


Why Go Overseas for Medical Tourism?

According to research done by Deloitte, of the estimated 8 million Americans who traveled abroad for medical treatment in 2007, only 250 of them were uninsured. The reasons for this are varied, including personal or religious preferences, the desire to avoid the hassles of traveling with an illness or poor health coverage at home.

Aliza Knox, senior manager of Deloitte’s U.S. healthcare practice, estimates that more than 100,000 Americans traveled in 2008 to India alone.

 Despite efforts by many states, including Dubai, to control healthcare fees, inflation has caused hospitals and clinics to increase prices to survive. As a result, several care providers and insurers in Dubai posted fiscal losses in recent years because they were not adjusting their prices and premiums to keep up with the rising cost of doing business. In 2013, medical costs were expected to increase by 5 to 10%, a trend that affects both public and private healthcare institutions equally.

It means that a visit to the general practitioner for a routine examination or similar care is often priced between AED250 and 400 (roughly $68-110), while a night in a public hospital costs around AED1,000 (US$ 272.26) for standard care or AED3,000 (US$ 816) for an overnight stay in the ICU. Accommodations at these prices are often dormitory-style, with several patients in a shared recovery area.

Aside from saving money, medical tourists also see the following benefits:

  • Reduced waiting times;
  • Ease of booking online and paying in cash;
  • Recovering away from friends and family;
  • The opportunity to visit popular tourist attractions while abroad.


What Is Medical Tourism Insurance?

So what exactly is covered by medical tourism insurance? In contrast to travel insurance, it does not cover the actual medical expenses. Instead, this type of insurance covers the costs involved while traveling abroad for medical procedures. This includes: 

  • pre-medical tests; 
  • consultations; 
  • transportation to and from clinics or hospitals; 
  • accommodation expenses while staying in the country; 
  • tariffs; 
  • post-operative treatments or follow-ups; 
  • prescription medications necessary during the trip; 
  • food allowances while staying at your destination country hospital or clinic.


Medical Travel Insurance Is Not Health Insurance

It’s important to know that the cost of the procedure itself will not be covered by travel insurance, health insurance or medical travel insurance if a person travels abroad specifically for medical treatment. Patients who choose medical tourism often pay for their procedures themselves because of the lower healthcare costs in other countries. Some assume that medical travel insurance is health insurance, but it is not.


Medical Tourism Insurance Is Not Life Insurance

The same applies to the belief that medical tourism insurance is life insurance. Life insurance typically covers the death of an insured person caused by an accident or illness. However, medical tourism insurance does not provide coverage in a medical crisis or death abroad.


Medical Tourism Insurance Is Not Trauma Coverage

Trauma coverage is yet another type of insurance that is very different from medical travel insurance. Trauma coverage comes into play when a person is hurt or maimed unexpectedly. This insurance typically covers medical, rehabilitation and therapy expenses after an accident. Medical tourism insurance does not provide coverage for accidents before the traveler goes to their destination country.


What Medical Tourism Insurance Does

Medical tourism insurance covers complications during a patient’s procedure or the recovery period. Medical tourism does come with certain risks, however. While those seeking less expensive medical care will see benefits outweighing the risks, the cautious patient will still wish to be protected by medical travel and complications insurance. If complications occur, this insurance will provide relief from unforeseen financial hardships. For anyone considering medical tourism abroad, it is an absolute necessity.


When Does Medical Tourism Insurance Cover You?

There are two cases in which a medical travel insurance policy would cover a tourist: if their local health insurer has denied them service, and when going overseas for pre-existing conditions that can’t be treated at home.

Most credit card companies do not cover medical tourism insurance. Still, it can be combined with certain types of credit cards like the American Express Platinum) to get coverage for medical travel.


A Parting Reminder

While insurance companies that offer medical travel insurance may cover the costs of complications due to patient negligence, wound infection, surgical error, clinical malpractice or faulty equipment used during surgery, they don’t typically cover the cost of procedures. Therefore, it is vital to know what you are paying for and what your plan will and won’t cover before you travel for medical care.

Kathleen Hernandez

Kathleen Hernandez