Over the next decade, this industry is expected to prosper even more, as more patients reach for their passports before undergoing treatment. With healthcare costs soaring and the amount of patients continuing to outnumber the available physicians and nurses for care, wellness travel companies can anticipate exponential growth. In this emerging industry, it is important to put your best foot forward, and secure the proper insurance coverage to make sure your organization is able to continue promising your clients the upmost in care and a trouble-free experience as a medical tourist.
What once seemed unusual and unsafe has now become common and practical, as millions worldwide travel outside their home countries to partake in medical tourism. As the cost of healthcare soars and waitlists for surgery grow longer, medical tourists are able to find inexpensive, faster care by simply taking a vacation.
When comparing the expense of undergoing an operation in the U.S. to the cost of the same surgery in a medical tourism hotspot such as Thailand, the difference is staggering. The World Health Organization reports U.S. healthcare is ranked 37th worldwide in the quality of care, but the cost of treatment is more per capita than any other industrialized nation.
For this reason, as many as 500,000 Americans traveled overseas to seek medical treatment, and the industry grossed $60 billion worldwide in 2006. That number is expected to reach $100 billion by 2012, as the 78 million members of the Baby Boomer generation in the U.S. will begin turning 65.
In other countries with socialized healthcare systems, governments are beginning to outsource patients requiring non-essential procedures to medical tourism destinations, due to overcrowding in hospitals. Great Britain and Canada have been able to cut wait times for surgeries down from months to a matter of a few hours travel time.
The average person has limited knowledge of how to arrange such a trip, so they require the services of facilitators to assist them in locating accredited hospitals and doctors, and weigh the advantages and disadvantages in their decision to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Ultimately, they are looking for a knowledgeable, trustworthy organization to arrange their trip, make sure they receive the utmost in care, and return home healthier and with a stronger sense of well-being. As a facilitator, this is an enormous responsibility to fulfill, and if this promise is not met, there can be numerous financial and moral consequences. The simplest way to protect your organization and its assets is to secure the right insurance coverage.
The risks medical tourism companies face are unique, therefore the insurance coverage you should obtain must be tailored to these needs. Much like the promise you make to your clients that their trip will fulfill their expectations, insurance is also a promise that it will fulfill your expectations and prevent your company from a financial downfall should an unexpected situation occurs, such as a lawsuit.
Having insurance coverage can also serve as a marketing tool. Insurance lends credibility to your organization from a medical tourist’s standpoint, as well as when contracting with hospitals and outside organizations.
Advising clients and partners that you have insurance protection means your company is not likely to go bankrupt should a lawsuit occur. Clients will know they would be able to seek financial recourse if they choose, and partners will have confidence that they are contracting with a financially secure company.
Below is a summary of advisable coverages to acquire, in addition to some policies your clients should look into before embarking on their journeys overseas.
Professional and General Liability Coverage
Many countries, such as the United States, are recognized for their highly litigious society and ever-increasing settlement amounts, particularly in the medical industry. One of the most important policies to anyone operating a business or organization is liability coverage, which protects your company’s assets should a litigious situation arise.
As with anyone working closely with the medical industry, facilitators are at risk for a lawsuit if a client does not receive the results expected, has complications after the surgery, or in the worst instance, dies as a result of the treatment. Even though you are not offering medical advice, you are the clients’ first point-of-contact for their medical tourism experience, so when something goes wrong, you are likely to be the first or one of the parties they would turn to for recourse.
Professional Liability or Error’s & Omission policy provides financial support for a litigation defense and court costs related to a claim from a client. If it is found that your organization was at fault, even if you are accused of misleading the client, the coverage will also pay the settlement amount up to the policy limits.
This insurance not only protects your company during litigation with a client, but it also provides coverage if any of your contractual partners file a lawsuit against you for negligence or breach of contractual terms subject to policy terms and conditions. This includes hospitals, physicians, spas or any other outside party with which you are associated.
Another advantage to this coverage is worldwide jurisdiction. This means you have insurance backing no matter which country the suit is filed. For instance, if your company is based in Japan, and you assisted a client from United Arab Emirates to receive surgery in Thailand, then later a suit is brought against you in United Arab Emirates in connection with this trip, your liability policy will be applicable.
Another important policy a facilitator can offer to medical tourists is Personal Accident insurance. This policy provides Accidental Death and Disability coverage for your clients during the entire length of their trip. Should the client suffer a permanent total disability or death, the policy will pay a pre-agreed fixed sum and will also pay an additional amount to repatriate the remains.
This policy covers any incidents that occur on the trip, whether it is due to the medical procedure on the operating table or while the client is exploring the city. The benefits can also be extended to continue coverage for the client on the return to his/her home country for a limited period.
The best way to offer this coverage to your clients is to package it with the rest of their trip. By doing so, you are giving your company a competitive edge over other wellness travel agencies. Clients will take comfort in knowing if the unexpected occurs, they will receive a guaranteed monetary benefit, and this may prove to be a competitive advantage as clients choose your company over another.
Additionally, if an incident does occur, and a client and/or their beneficiaries receive payment for the occurrence, they are less likely or inclined to file a lawsuit. The amount they receive may be reasonable enough to deter them from adopting a legal recourse of going to a court ( possibly in a foreign jurisdiction ) and incurring high legal costs and in addition, waiting for what could be several years for a settlement to be reached, and an additional amount to be paid.
When advising your clients on necessities for their upcoming trip, it is also essential to provide them with options for insuring their journey. Many travel agencies will offer insurance for various aspects of the trip, but it is also advisable to offer clients coverage when they purchase a package from you.
Trip Cancellation insurance provides coverage for a variety of potential risks including if the trip is cancelled due to the client’s own personal reasons ( subject to policy terms ) , or if a natural disaster occurs preventing the client from visiting the country. Many of the medical tourism hotspots are known for bearing the brunt of cyclones and other natural disasters. Trip Cancellation coverage refunds the cost of the entire trip that has already been incurred if there is an incident that prevents the client from making the journey.
When and Where to Find Coverage
As soon as you begin developing a business plan to become a wellness travel company, you should start evaluating your insurance options. Knowing the premiums for these important coverages during budgeting will help you forecast more accurate revenue and expenses. In many cases, hospitals and outside vendors will require you to provide proof of coverage before entering a contract with your company.
If your company is already in operation, it is important to obtain coverage as soon as possible. Once you have located a specialized insurance provider, coverage can usually be issued in a short time frame, even less than a week if all of your information is complete.
Finding an insurance provider can be more challenging. Just like the medical tourism industry is emerging, so are the insurance products catering to it. Many providers will not consider business from this market because it is still seen as too high of a risk. This industry is incredibly unique, and there is no historical experience available for which the underwriters can reference.
However, a few providers have recognized the need for comprehensive coverage in this industry, and are becoming experts in insuring and creating specialized products for wellness travel companies. As this industry continues to flourish, and insurance providers gain a stronger knowledge of its intricacies, it is expected the number of providers and products available will also increase.
Over the next decade, this industry is expected to prosper even more, as more patients reach for their passports before undergoing treatment. With healthcare costs soaring and the amount of patients continuing to outnumber the available physicians and nurses for care, wellness travel companies can anticipate exponential growth.
In this emerging industry, it is important to put your best foot forward, and secure the proper insurance coverage to make sure your organization is able to continue promising your clients the upmost in care and a trouble-free experience as a medical tourist.
About Clements International
Since 1947, Clements International has been providing innovative, specialized International insurance solutions to businesses, organizations, and individuals worldwide. Clements also offers expert advice and insurance products catered to the medical tourism industry, and its facilitators. For more information on how Clements can help you, contact Smita Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 800-872-0067, x 1573, or visit our website at http://www.clements.com