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Rising Cost of U.S. Healthcare Boosts Medical Tourism in the Philippines

The Philippines is becoming a prime medical tourism destination for Americans and foreign nationals as healthcare costs in the U.S. and around the world continue to rise.  The Philippine Department of Tourism reports that the number of overseas patients visiting the Philippines is increasing by as much as 88%, from 60,000 clients in 2007 to 600,000 in 2009. The Philippine Medical Tourism industry has registered a gross revenue of $350 million since it’s establishment in 2006. Furthermore, the DOT expects a $3 billion profit by 2015, with as much as 1,000,000 foreign patients arriving annually.

Statistics from the National Coalition on Healthcare in the U.S., indicate that between 500,000 and 750,000 Americans received medical and dental treatment abroad in the year 2007. The number increased to 1.3 billion in 2008, and is expected to double by 2010. The United States currently has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, with over 61 million Americans either uninsured or under-insured.  American patients who opt to undergo treatment abroad save as much as 50-80% on medical expenses.This has contributed to the popularity of medical tourism in other countries.  Experts predict that by 2012, medical tourism will become a $100 billion/year enterprise, catering to over 780,000,000 patients. A 2008 McKinsey and Co. Report states that 40% of medical tourists seek advanced technology, 32% better healthcare, 15% faster medical services, while 9% seek lower healthcare costs. The Philippines boasts all of these attractions, and is considered a top medical tourism destination in Southeast Asia. Due to strong political, economical and cultural connections between the U.S. and the Philippines, most Americans prefer medical tourism in the Philippines, and regularly visit the country to address their healthcare needs.  Although the Philippines remains a minor player in the global medical tourism industry, local advocates predict that it could become a premier global destination by 2015.

Since its establishment in 2006, the Medical Tourism Bureau has succeeded in catapulting the Philippines as a choice healthcare destination for foreign nationals. The country not only boasts a large number of highly-trained, English-fluent medical practitioners, it also houses over 2,000 hospitals, all of which are duly accredited by the Philippine Department of Health. Medical treatment in the Philippines is also cheaper than in other countries. Overseas patients can save as much as 70% on medical procedures, without compromising on the quality of medical treatments. For example, kidney transplants in other countries cost about $140,000, but hospitals in the Philippines offer the same procedure for only $60,000. The same is true for surgical procedures like the coronary artery bypass graft, which costs only $10,000 in Philippine hospitals. Knee replacement surgery costs about $50,000 in the U.S., but the same treatment is worth only $6,000 in the Philippines. The medical tourism industry in the Philippines offers a large selection of medical, dental and cosmetic procedures for overseas patients, including cardiology, knee replacements, bone marrow transplants, rheumatology and cataract surgery.

According to Gregory Kittelson of Philippines consulting firm Kittelson & Carpo Consulting, “Although medical tourism in the Philippines is still in its development stage, the economic outlook for the industry has never looked brighter. We’re seeing an annual increase in both local and foreign nationals setting up medical tourism businesses in the Philippines. Although Thailand and Singapore are still considered the top medical tourism destinations in Southeast Asia, Philippine medical tourism is expected to undergo further development in the coming years, and will be a top competitor.”

Medical tourism in the Philippines is primarily dominated by American patients, however, the Department of Tourism is now encouraging foreign nationals from other countries to visit the Philippines for medical treatment. The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) recently issued recommendations to increase inbound medical travel in the country, including the elimination of foreign airlines tax, the development and implementation of national destination plans, the issuance of longer medical tourism visas for overseas patients and other incentives. Medical Tourism packages, including everything from visas and airfare, to hospital costs and medical treatments, have also become readily available to foreign nationals in the Philippines. And as the U.S. Healthcare system continues to deteriorate, medical tourism will continue to gain popularity among uninsured and under-insured Americans. This bodes well for affordable medical tourism destinations in Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines. As more and more Americans venture abroad for medical treatment, industry advocates in the Philippines expect an increase in the inflow of patients from the U.S. This not only translates to an increase in government profits, it also sets the stage for the Philippines to emerge as one of the foremost competitors in the global medical tourism industry


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