The American Medical Association has established guidelines for medical tourism that identify specific steps that should be taken by employers, insurers and others responsible for coordinating medical care and travel outside of the United States.
Among other things, the new principles state that medical care outside of the country be voluntary; that patients should only be referred for care at institutions that have been accredited by recognized international accrediting bodies; that coverage include the costs of necessary follow-up care in the U.S.; that transfer of medical records be consistent with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act; and that patients choosing to travel outside of the U.S. for medical care be informed about the potential risks of combining surgical procedures with long flights and vacation activities.
The AMA decided to adopt these new principles in response to the growing popularity of medical tourism. The AMA estimates that as many as 150,000 Americans each year seek health care overseas, primarily because it costs significantly less than receiving such care in the United States.
To ensure that employers, insurers and others that facilitate medical tourism adhere to the AMA’s principles, the Chicago-based organization of medical professionals plans to introduce model legislation for state lawmakers to consider.
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