Americans Abroad: Long Term Care and Medical Tourism
November 19, 2008
The Dallas Daily News published a story recently featuring the emergent Long Term Care industry in Mexico. (link here). What is remarkable about this story is that the newspaper was not discussing new developments in Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Care in Mexico, designed for Mexicans, but rather new facilities built for the purpose of serving Americans who want to spend their senior years south of the border.
The listed the pros (strong dollar agaisnt the peso, inclusive culture of long term care in the country, warm weather, little regulation) as well as the cons (little regulation, untested providers, far from family and friends). The experts from the article seemed to think that servicing the long term care needs of Americans will not just be a niche marketing technique, but rather an entire industry. As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out, but the business model is intriguing. Generally speaking, it is an application of so-called ‘medical tourism.’
I’ve written about this phenomenon with greater precision elsewhere (link here), but the broad strokes are, simply, using the economic inducements of cheaper medical care and exotic, vacation-like locales, to draw wealthy, western patients to poorer, underdeveloped nations for specific, acute medical care. Most of these ventures have focused on providing surgery to the medical tourist patient, but I see no reason why the long term care industry cannot profit from the same underpinning economic advantages as the mega hospitals in Bangkok that offer hip replacement surgeries for a tenth of the cost as hospitals in the U.S.
Such foreign provided care is not without problems (resident safety, payor sources, etc.), and the issues are much different for American citizens who intend to move to Mexico to remain rather than stay for a week of surgery. However, these Mexican facilities may provide some much need dynamic competition to our home-grown long term care facilities. This is a development I intend to watch very carefully.