Preparing for international health care

Portfolio offers enlightenment on the emerging reality of international health care:

UnitedHealth, which has over 70 million Americans under its care, has already moved to make Bumrungrad International hospital in Bangkok “in network.” When Aetna, with 37 million members, bought the overseas insurer Goodhealth Worldwide last year, Aetna’s CEO explained the move by saying that globalized surgery is “an important emerging trend.” The company has already started a pilot program to send patients abroad for hip and knee replacements.

The big question: does medical tourism remain a classroom discussion or has it now entered the boardroom?

Is anyone raising concerns about the U.S. health care system’s inability to compete (even relatively closely) on price with worldwide providers at the organizational level?

The most important part of the Portfolio story is this seemingly innocuous sentence:

Surgeons in the United States hate the idea.

Physicians make the health care world go round, that’s no secret.  Surgeons will be impacted most by borderless health care.  That means the delivery system will pay serious attention when surgeons’ viability starts to be threatened (now?).  A concerted response at that point may come too late.

The time to think about this/act on this is now.  Some health care will always be delivered locally, the frailty of human life demands it.  The value proposition of primary care is such that it will remain cost-effective (and time-effective) to deliver those services stateside further into the feature than surgical care (for now).  Aside from these caveats (hardly safe scenarios, for what it’s worth), all is fair game for international disruption.

Hopefully health care deals with it more successfully than the domestic auto industry.

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