KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mexico Steps Up Efforts To Attract Medical Tourists

Efforts to standardize quality measures for medical tourism are underway as Mexico tries to attract medical tourists. Such efforts come after the swine flu outbreak significantly hurt Mexico's tourism industry, which ranks third as the country's source of foreign income

The Houston Chronicle reports: "Uninsured, under-insured and not sure Obamacare is going to ramp up in case you suddenly need a triple heart bypass? Consider a vacation to Mexico's chaotic yet caring capital. Desperate to win back the tourists it lost amid last spring's swine flu crisis, Mexico City's government and participating hotels are offering full health insurance to Mexican and foreign tourists staying here through the end of the year. The insurance will cover treatment - including hospitalization and medicines - for those falling sick with the flu or other illnesses as well as those involved in an accident. Transportation of patients needing to be sent back to their cities or countries of origin will be paid by the insurance as well."

The Chronicle notes: "Tourism in the capital and nationwide has rebounded considerably this summer but still lags behind last year's figures. More than 13 million tourists visited Mexico City last year, according to city figures, about a quarter of them from the United States. ... The insurance program comes as Mexico City prepares for the next year's celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence from Spain" (Althaus, 8/3).

Meanwhile, Medical Tourism Magazine reports on efforts to standardize safety and quality standards for medical tourism: "One 2008 report found that more than 750,000 Americans sought treatment outside the United States in 2007 and projected that number to grow to 6 million by 2010. People in other parts of the world are also leaving their countries for medical care, sometimes coming to the United States. The same report estimated that more than 400,000 non-U.S. residents will seek care in the United States. For those coming into the United States for treatment, the deciding factor is not always cost but instead the reputation for high quality care with advanced technology and highly-specialized medical facilities and physicians, as well as the potential for quicker access to services that might not be as readily available in a patient's country of origin" (Timmons, 8/4).

A separate article in Medical Tourism Magazine examines telehealth, also known as telemedicine, and its role in medical tourism: "Telehealth can improve quality, efficiency and customer service in medical tourism applications by better coordination of care between providers in patients' home and foreign countries, enhanced preoperative and postoperative care, and optimizing patient and family member travel" (Simmons and Burdick, 8/4).

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