One odd and largely unanticipated consequence of the escalating cost of U.S. healthcare and the growing ranks of the uninsured is the emergence of “medical tourism,” in which desperate Americans unable to afford surgery or other care at home instead seek it abroad at far lower cost. I don’t have numbers at my fingertips, but my anecdotal sense is that medical tourism is really starting to get some traction here, despite the numerous uncertainties involved in placing your health in the hands of unknown medical professionals in a country that you may have never even visited before.
Trust capitalism to start taking some of the rough edges off the practice, though. Newly founded BridgeHealth International, a Greenwood Village, Colo., startup, is willing to arrange your medical trip abroad with a full package that includes the cost of the medical procedures, airfare, lodging, and other ancillary items. The company says it has put together an international network of accredited physicians and hospitals, and will make available data for customers to evaluate the providers they’re considering, in nations such as Mexico, China, India, Taiwan and Singapore.
BridgeHealth claims to save patients “thousands” (of dollars, I presume) on these tours — which, if you’ve ever seen a hospital bill for someone with no insurance, requires no great stretch of the imagination. The company says its services integrate “seamlessly” into existing “health benefit products” — I take this to mean that if you happen to have a health-savings account or something similar, BridgeHealth has figured out how to let you spend that money on its services — and will even arrange sightseeing and activities while you’re abroad.
BridgeHealth just raised a “seven figure” seed investment. Investors included the private equity firms Jovian Holdings and Tivis Capital. By the way, anyone interested in more detail — much, much more — on medical tourism could do worse than to check out the Health Business Blog, which proprietor David Williams has lately devoted nearly full-time to the subject.
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