Where Health Tourism Is NOT Welcomed

While many countries in the Far East are welcoming visitors who want to use their medical facilities, a few in Europe dread the presence of these health tourists. Take the United Kingdom, for instance. Despite the NHS in England earning 25 million pounds sterling from health tourists annually, it accrues 5 million pounds in unpaid bills.

Travel To the UK - passport, visa and now insurance card?

So now, according to BBC News, the Department of Health is  proposing that visitors to the UK could be required to hold health insurance before they can enter the country. In a separate immigration review, the UK could also refuse entry to foreigners owing money for health care. This ruling however does not apply to visitors from the EU.

The department conceded that, while the unpaid debts were small in relation to overall NHS spending, it was “important that we maximise recovery, not least to discourage deliberate abuse by a small minority of visitors”.

Hmm..this will be a retrogressive step if applied, as health tourism has been a source of substantial foreign earnings for those countries actively promoting it, and the UK could do with some foreign direct investments. While I can understand the rationale behind this move, there are alternatives which might not be too difficult to implement, instead of checking every visitor for a valid insurance card at Immigrations.

For instance, improving the payment processes at the point of admission to hospitals, by having a deposit or a credit-card guarantee, can mitigate payment defaulters before the problems start. In essence, the NHS has to get out of its socialized medicine mentality and begin to function as a corporate entity in the way a Hospital trust should.

Meanwhile, if this must-have-insurance rule is applied, it wouldn’t be too far away before health issues pertaining to human  rights will be raised, should any visitor be deprived of healthcare which is generally considered a basic human right.

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3 responses

  1. “in essence, the NHS has to get out of its socialized medicine mentality and begin to function as a corporate entity in the way a Hospital trust should.”

    I think thats a great statement, except that we dont want to see too much emphasis on the financial bottom-line the way big corporations do.

  2. Salam dr,

    I have only just stumbled into your blog and I find it very useful for medical students like me. I am a final year med student in Newcastle Uni,NSW.

    I would like to ask your permission to put a link to your blog in mine. (well, I actually already did, but do let me know if you have any objections and I will delete it).
    Doctor2008 replies: Of course,you can! It will help too if you let me know your blog URL.

  3. Thank you!
    Here’s my blog url.


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