Wednesday, October 01, 2014

But do they accept Medicare?

One of my cousins is currently on a spectacular transpacific cruise, with a mid-cruise stay in Sydney, a circumnavigation of Australia, and a flight that stops over in Dubai for a couple of days on the way home. (Another of my cousins has just finished up a one month post-retirement stay in Paris with her husband. What am I doing wrong???)

Anyway, although Dubai is all sorts of modern, and has all those wacky man-made islands, and indoor desert skiing – amazing what you can do when energy is no object – I really don’t have much interest in visiting the Mideast. (I have already confessed to my Euro-centric travel interests. No need to re-harp on it here.)

What I hadn’t realized was that, if you look beyond the wacky man-made islands and the fabulous malls, Dubai has also become something of a mecca for medical tourism.

Already one of world’s ten most visited cities, Dubai is counting on more people like [Russian Maria] Ivanova to mix their holidays with high-end treatments for a luxurious form of medical tourism, rivaling Thailand and India. Now, it’s trying to attract 500,000 such visitors, adding 2.6 billion dirhams ($708 million) to its economy by 2020, according to a Dubai Health Authority plan announced this year. (Source: Bloomberg)

A lot of that medical tourism is cosmetic in nature. Ivanova is heading there for liposuction. And, Dubai being Dubai, the hospital digs can get pretty fancy.

Other than a doctor or two, I don’t know what the American Dubai medicalAcademy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital has to do with American anything. The pictures sure don’t look like anything I’ve seen in the American hospital system, that’s for sure.

 More Dubai tourism

Don’t recall anything quite like this at Mass General.

Then again, we weren’t there for liposuction or a nose job.

“The presentation and the aura are just as important as the quality of care we provide,” said Michael Stroud, chief executive officer of the hospital, the largest of its kind in the Gulf region. “We are capitalizing on Dubai’s luster.”

Me? Quality of care is actually more important than “aura”, but what do I know?

That Dubai luster does nothing for me, but I will be getting a full report from my globe-trotting cuz when she gets back. Maybe she’ll be able to convince me that it’s worth a look-see.

As for their medical tourism industry, Dubai is up against price pressure from India and Thailand, and quality competition from the U.S. and Europe. So the country – I almost typed “company’ in there -  positioning itself as the high-end, luxury choice. Which is pretty much how they position themselves as a tourist destination. After all, I don’t imagine there’s much to see or do there that doesn’t have to do with gawping at things like a really tall building, a seven-star hotel, and that indoor ski slope. That and shopping ‘til they drop. To me, it would be like visiting a Flash Gordon planet.

There’s pretty good reason underlying Dubai’s focus on cosmetic surgery. It’s kind of their starter-medical area. Excel here, and then start focusing on the boring stuff that, like, kills people.

Dubai Healthcare City representatives say its focus on elective surgeries and a plan to build a wellness center will create a niche market. It’s still working to improve its care in areas such as oncology and cardiology to keep locals from going abroad for more complicated procedures….

“With any new country, you basically build up your health system,” said Amer Ahmad Sharif, managing director of the education division at Dubai Healthcare City. “No matter what you do, there will be some specialized types of care that you will not be able to cater for at a certain volume.”

Focusing on breast implants and tummy tucks sure make an interesting way to build up your medical system, but I guess it’s where the money is.

Anyway, I recently applied for and received my Medicare card, which I can begin using in a short while.

Not that I’m necessarily looking forward to having this memento mori staring me in the face every time I look in my wallet, but, hey, even when you factor in what you pay for Part B, and top it off with supplemental Part C and Part D, I’ll still be saving a few hundred bucks a month. Which I intend to earmark for my travel fund. (Let the travel begin!)

I don’t imagine that any of that travel will be medical tourism. Am I really going to start worrying about a bumpy nose at this point?

But if I were to do some medical touring, I’m wondering whether they’ll take Medicare.

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