Florida acts to compete in global medical tourism market

Ponte Vedra Beach

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (Photo: Kay B. Day)

As the U.S. healthcare market reconfigures post-PPACA (Obamacare), the state of Florida is taking note. The Sunshine State is already branded as a top medical provider, so it makes sense to share that resource with the rest of the world.

Sen. Bean

State Sen. Aaron Bean (Photo: Florida Legislature)

State Sen. Aaron Bean (R, Fla-4) recognized the opportunity for visitors who need quality healthcare and for residents who will be happy to provide everything from healthcare to transportation, housing, amenities, and anything else patients need when they come to get treatment.

Bean sponsored Senate Bill 1150 to promote medical tourism and market the state as a health care destination.

“Medical tourism has existed in Florida since Ponce de Leon set out in search of the Fountain of Youth.  By expanding medical tourism, Florida’s quality health care providers will be able to tap into the expertise of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to promote their services while advancing the state’s goal of annually attracting more than 100 million tourists to Florida,” said Senator Bean. “This legislation incentivizes quality health care providers to offer innovative and competitively priced service packages that include amenities from our state’s established tourism network of hotels, restaurants, and attractions.”

Medical tourism is a growing global economic sector, eagerly embraced by people from countries like Canada where it’s a challenge to provide timely care for citizens bound by the government-controlled healthcare bureaucracy. Canadian Family Physician, official journal of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, contained an article by Leigh Turner, PhD, who wrote:

“Delays for medical interventions such as hip and knee replacements, spinal surgery, and ophthalmologic procedures are a serious problem in Canada. Federal and provincial governments are struggling to shorten waiting lists and provide timely care. Patients often wait months to obtain appointments with specialists, undergo diagnostic tests, and receive treatment. Lack of access to family physicians can make obtaining care particularly difficult.”

At present, the country of India has become well-known globally as a purveyor of medical services. However, Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the U.S., recognized the opportunity to market medical care and companies like HIMAHEALTH have been marketing the concept since at least 2009.

Florida is well-positioned to provide care not only for those outside the U.S., but for those in states where the pool of facilities and healthcare workers cannot keep pace with demand. Florida’s longtime asset as a recreational tourism state will be a double asset because of the tourist infrastructure already in place.

Medical tourism can be another brick in a solid foundation of economic progress Republican Gov. Rick Scott has led during his first term.

“This legislation will promote national and international awareness of the qualifications, scope of services, and specialized health care expertise of quality providers in Florida, including our Cancer Centers of Excellence,” said Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville).

SB 1150 adds medical tourism to Visit Florida’s 4-year marketing plan and showcase of Florida providers. The bill allocates $3.5 million annually from the total appropriation for Visit Florida in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for this purpose.

The bill also creates a matching grant program within Visit Florida for local and regional economic development organizations to create targeted medical tourism marketing initiatives. The bill allocates $1.5 million annually from the total appropriation for Visit Florida in the GAA to be used for this purpose.

Revenue derived from medical tourism in Florida will also help the state’s providers cope with increased operating costs as a result of the federal health tax bill. That will be a plus for Florida residents because increased revenue will help keep the healthcare sector strong as providers and other interests cope with PPACA.

(Filed by Kay B. Day/March 19, 2014)

Source: Quotes about and information about SB 1150 from Florida Senate News Release/March 17, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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