Author: Medical Tourism Magazine
Every industry needs a voice, a voice to protect and support its efforts. The Medical Tourism Association® (MTA) has been the voice of the industry for years, working with the global media to get thousands of articles published on medical tourism, dealing with both the negative and positive articles and even advocating for patients that have had a bad medical tourism experience. At the end of the day, it’s about awareness, supporting patients, positive outcomes and protecting the industry, while focusing on the most valuable healthcare within the patient’s reach.
One aspect the MTA is limited to pursue is lobbying U.S. Congress. That’s why we have partnered with the global law firm, Squire Sanders to establish the first non-profit lobbying group, the International Healthcare Consumers Coalition (IHCC). This group will advocate for the support of reimbursement of Medicare costs incurred by Americans living or retired overseas. The group will provide a voice to healthcare providers, insurance companies, overseas governments and hospitals that would benefit from Americans having the choice to receive their Medicare services in the countries they reside in (or those nearby), versus being forced to travel back to the United States.
With millions of Americans living overseas, it doesn’t make sense for them to be forced to leave their home and family to receive treatment in the U.S., especially if they would prefer to have it locally. Since some countries have lower healthcare costs compared to the U.S., this could potentially save the government billions of dollars in healthcare expenses.
The IHCC will lobby the United States Congress in Washington D.C. in both the Senate and the House demonstrating the positive effects of Medicare reimbursement, as long as it is done in hospitals that provide high quality care and international patient services. The IHCC will also focus on the issues surrounding quality, safety and fraud issues which are pertinent to the reimbursement of care overseas and something that must be addressed before Congress adopts this concept.
This is not just about lobbying the U.S. Congress for Medicare reimbursement. Part of this lobbying initiative will be to advocate and “protect” the industry. This protection is needed because there are hospitals marketing their services to American patients that do not have the quality standards necessary for positive outcomes. Even with all the positive stories, all it would take is one negative story and the U.S. Congress or a local government could move forward with a law or legislation that would limit the growth of medical tourism. A big part of any lobbying initiative is to have the face time with the influential people in Congress to ensure the other side of the story is heard. This will be critical to the growth of medical tourism in the United States and the IHCC has been formed specifically to make sure the interests of the industry will always be protected.
Hospitals, physicians, governments and others will be able to join the lobbying initiative and actually participate in the trip to Washington D.C. to meet with Senators and Congressmen to advance these interests.
In addition to the IHCC, we have also launched the Global Healthcare Consumers Coalition (GHCC), a non-profit lobbying group to support the initiatives of the U.S. hospitals in their interest in attracting international patients. This lobbying group will advocate for U.S. hospitals, international insurers and employers that have clients in the U.S. or that want to send patients to the U.S. for care. Advocating for the issue of healthcare visas and governmental support will be critical to assist U.S. hospitals in exporting their services overseas.
These lobbying groups are currently in the application process of a 501(c) (4) designation by the Internal Revenue Service. The funds received into this will be managed by a law firm and used solely for the purpose of advocating and protecting the interests of the industry. For those interested in learning more, the 5th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress will host a meeting on Oct 24th, 2012 at 12 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
We wanted to share our medical tourism lobbying initiative in hopes of inspiring cities and governments in different parts of the world to create their own lobbying group and initiatives for their specific medical tourism locality. Whether it is a healthcare cluster or healthcare group lobbying the local or national government, laws and programs should be put in place so the interests of that city, region or country will be always be represented. This can make the difference between a government being favorable to a medical tourism initiative, apathetic or even negative. As new elections take place and new governments form across the globe, there needs to be that constant voice advocating for your own local and national initiatives. New governments and elected officials need to be educated on the importance of supporting this sector and the positive impact medical tourism has on the local economy, population and healthcare sector. As an industry we need to share best practices, join forces and advocate together.