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Articles on Medical Tourism Industry
Amit Sen Gupta
THE most recent trend in privatisation
of health services is medical tourism, which is gaining prominence in
developing countries. Globalisation has promoted a consumerist culture,
thereby promoting goods and services that can feed the aspirations arising
from this culture. This has had its effect in the health sector too, with
the emergence of a private sector that thrives by servicing a small
percentage of the population that has the ability to "buy" medical
care at the rates at which the "high end" of the private medical
sector provides such care. This has changed the character of the medical
care sector, with the entry of the corporate sector. Corporate run
institutions are seized with the necessity to maximise profits and expand
their coverage. These objectives face a constraint in the form of the
relatively small size of the population in developing countries that can
afford services offered by such institutions. In this background, corporate
interests in the Medical Care sector are looking for opportunities that go
beyond the limited domestic "market" for high cost medical care.
This is the genesis of the "medical tourism" industry.
Medical Tourism As An Industry
Medical tourism can be broadly defined as provision of 'cost effective'
private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients
needing surgical and other forms of specialized treatment. This process is
being facilitated by the corporate sector involved in medical care as well
as the tourism industry - both private and public.
In many developing countries it is being actively promoted by the
government's official policy. India's National Health policy 2002, for
example, says: "To capitalise on the comparative cost advantage enjoyed
by domestic health facilities in the secondary and tertiary sector, the
policy will encourage the supply of services to patients of foreign origin
on payment. The rendering of such services on payment in foreign exchange
will be treated as 'deemed exports' and will be made eligible for all fiscal
incentives extended to export earnings". The formulation draws from
recommendations that the corporate sector has been making in India and
specifically from the "Policy Framework for Reforms in Health Care",
drafted by the prime minister's Advisory Council on Trade and Industry,
headed by Mukesh Ambani and Kumaramangalam Birla.