Health insurer may become medical tourism agent


Australian health insurer, nib, is considering becoming a medical tourism agent for its customers, but not offering insurance cover for medical tourism as the main reason that Australians go overseas for treatment is cosmetic surgery,  something that health insurers do not cover.

The insurer has 18 branches across the country and if it cannot increase income in a very competitive market for health insurance, then it will have to close some. This is why ideas for producing extra income, such as becoming an agency for Australians seeking cosmetic surgery overseas, are being considered.

Mark Fitzgibbon of nib explains, ''If you're going to go overseas for surgery you want to deal with a company you trust. Australians are spending a lot of money on cosmetic surgery by going overseas. Everyone is making money out of it: the airline, the travel agent, the credit card and loan companies, as well as the clinics overseas. So we are exploring the prospect of having a role in assisting people making those decisions, because they know our brand.''

While globally, insurers are not keen on insuring medical tourism, there are other insurers around the globe that have dabbled in helping customers go to another country for treatment such as cosmetic surgery that they do not insure; as there are then no conflicts of interest.

A new dental tourism venture is targeting Australians. Dental Abroad, based in Auckland, New Zealand is seeking to take Australians to New Zealand for dental care. A weakening New Zealand dollar and cheap airfares have helped make the venture viable. It has been set up by a dentist and a technician who makes dental implants. It offers Australians a net saving of 20% to 30% on the dental cost in Australia. The company promises that work done in Auckland will be of a higher standard than in other countries where dental tourism is popular, such as Thailand.

The company specializes in the larger complex restorative cases involving 3 or more teeth requiring crowns, bridges or cosmetic veneers. Implants are made in house to high quality controls and standards, with a 3-year guarantee. Only internationally recognised brands of implants and fixtures are placed.



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