Medical Tourism In India

Medical Tourism & Public Health Services

Medical tourism is going to only deal with large specialist hospitals run by corporate entities. It is a myth that the revenues earned by these corporates will partly revert back to finance the public sector. There is ample evidence to show that these hospitals have not honoured the conditionalities for receiving government subsidies - in terms of treatment of a certain proportion of in patients and out patients free of cost. If anything, increased demand on private hospitals due to medical tourism may result in their expansion. If they expand then they will need more professionals, which means that they will try to woo doctors from the public sector. Even today the top specialists in corporate hospitals are senior doctors drawn the public sector. Medical tourism is likely to further devalue and divert personnel from the public sector rather than strengthen them.

Urban concentration of health care providers is a well-known fact - 59 per cent of India's practitioners (73 per cent allopathic) are located in cities, and especially metropolitan ones. Medical tourism promotes an "internal brain drain" with more health professionals being drawn to large urban centres, and within them, to large corporate run specialty institutions.

Medical tourism is going to result in a number of demands and changes in the areas of financing and regulations. There will be a greater push for encouraging private insurance tied to systems of accreditation of private hospitals. There is a huge concern in the developed countries about the quality of care and clinical expertise in developing countries and this will push for both insurance and regulatory regimes. The potential for earning revenues through medical tourism will become an important argument for private hospitals demanding more subsidies from the government in the long run. In countries like India, the corporate private sector has already received considerable subsidies in the form of land, reduced import duties for medical equipment etc. Medical tourism will only further legitimise their demands and put pressure on the government to subsidise them even more. This is worrying because the scarce resources available for health will go into subsidising the corporate sector. It thus has serious consequences for equity and cost of services and raises a very fundamental question: why should developing countries be subsidising the health care of developed countries?

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