As America’s meandering healthcare debate takes another turn, look beyond Washington, way beyond. Thousands of Americans every year go overseas for medical treatment that’s often cheaper, more advanced and more attentive than what’s available in the US. Although medical tourism specialists are moving into Central America to be closer to the US market, the epicenter of the global medical travel phenomenon remains Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital. Bumrungrad turned to international patients in the wake of the 1997 Asian economic crisis that began in Thailand, and the current global recession, which dramatically slowed growth in medical travel, hit the hospital in the midst of a US$57 million construction and renovation project focused on the international market. In Bangkok, I interviewed Bumrungrad’s CEO Mack Banner for Asia Times about how Bumrungrad got to the top of the medical tourism pyramid and how it plans to stay there. While politicians fiddle and patients get burned, Americans’ best bet for affordable, quality medical care right now is in Bangkok.
Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.