Free Trade in Health Care

A recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: “We Need Free Trade in Health Care.

The writers break down potential trade in medical services into the World Trade Organization’s 1995 General Agreement on Trade in Services typology.  The typology:

Mode 1 refers to “arm’s length” services that are typically found online: The provider and the user of services do not have to be in physical proximity.

Mode 2 relates to patients going to doctors elsewhere.

Mode 3 refers mainly to creating and staffing hospitals in other countries.

Mode 4 encompasses doctors and other medical personnel going to where the patients are. All modes promise varying, and substantial, cost savings.

While true free trade in medical services is probably a (very) distant threat to the industry in this country, these thoughts are interesting and may hold promise if we continue down the path we are on.  Competition, real competition—not the rivalry stuff we have now, would be good for all of us.

After reading the article, read this post on the Health Business Blog by David Williams who agrees “with about half of what’s printed there.”

One thought on “Free Trade in Health Care

  1. “While true free trade in medical services is probably a (very) distant threat to the industry in this country. . . ”

    I’m not sure it’s that “very distant.” For example, I’m one of three owners/directors of an Indian company, America’s Medical Solutions, Pvt. Ltd., which has been created by us three Americans for Americans coming to India. We live here 24/7/365 and as such are well appraised of what’s good for us and our clients. The law of scarcity and abundance (supply & demand), is well at work in the medical tourism industry and America is no exception to the rule. Those who need the care, don’t have the insurance, but who have a credit card, frequently find the care they would otherwise have to do without or wait for an interminably long time. But the shocker is the quality of the care not the price! True to any third world county’s prices, it’s going to be a lot cheaper than America, but the quality of the care is astounding. The doctors are frequently trained in western countries and they have taken a tip from the five star hotels and modeled their patient’s rooms in their hospitals on those standards with space for a traveling companion as well, and with nursing and help staff that is as interested in the patient as the patient themselves. The word is spreading fast, just as it always does when there is good competition.

    You name the problem, Indian medicine is here to stay, and will fix it promptly, professionally, responsibly and without charging an arm or a leg. That’s the competition that *IS* good for all of us, and it’s alive and well. So, I tend to disagree that this is a distant threat to industry in the western countries. It will actually be good for the whole world once it’s a completely accepted practice.

    As the articles have pointed out, concerning Mitt Romney’s discovery that young people don’t want to be physicians or nurses in America as they once did, medical tourism is not a threat but a benefit to the entire world.

    Don Wood, Director
    America’s Medical Solutions, Pvt. Ltd.


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