Medical tourism developments in Central and South America


Cosmetic surgery in Argentina
In Argentina, the Federal Public Revenue Administration has pointed out that, based upon the number of breast implants imported into Argentina for use by its cosmetic surgeons, the country is not receiving corresponding amounts of tax revenue. The value of implants imported into Argentina from Brazil, France and the United States totalled some US$15m in 2008-09, so the total billed cost of the operations using them should have been at least US$150m. Given that the total taxable income declared by cosmetic surgeons and clinics was much less, the Revenue Administration has put the due tax not received at some US$10m. The tax authorities suggest that 80% of all cosmetic surgery undertaken in Argentina remains undeclared. The same tax authorities estimate that health tourism is a significant source of income for local cosmetic surgeons, as this type of treatment accounts for the majority of the estimated 1,000 foreigners in Argentina every month for surgery of all types, because of both lower treatment prices and medical expertise. The tax authorities are looking for ways to ensure they get due taxes, and a medical tourism service tax is one proposal.

Medical tourism in Cost Rica
The Costa Rican National Tourism Chamber (Canatur) estimates that more than two million tourists visited the country in 2010. In 2009, the number of visits was 1.9 million, compared to 2 million in 2008. Juan Carlos Ramos of Canatur explained “The tourism sector recovered this year after suffering a significant drop in 2009.” It was helped by more airline routes from the US and Europe. Medical tourism continued to deliver numbers throughout 2010. Though no official data exists, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 medical tourists visited Costa Rica in 2010.

The local medical tourism industry is worried that the central government’s new tax proposal will hit hard at medical tourism. Unless lawmakers exempt foreign patients from the proposed value added tax, the cost of medical services in Costa Rica will be 15 % higher than they are now. That amount may be enough to deter customers completely, or effectively force them to go to other countries instead. The government is proposing a value added tax that covers professional services. These services are not covered now by the existing 13 % sales tax, although certain materials used by professionals do carry a sales tax. The value added tax would cover all professional medical services, including dental as well as hospital stays. The goal of the administration is to raise taxes equal to 2.5 % of the gross national product, substantially more than citizens pay now. The value-added tax is just one of the several new levies that the administration seeks.

New medical tourism services in Mexico
In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Casa Velas has expanded its medical programme, combining advanced elective procedures with a luxurious recuperation stay. The adults-only all-inclusive boutique hotel and ocean club in Puerto Vallarta works in conjunction with the board-certified, bilingual doctors of AmeriMed, a network of hospitals in Mexico adhering to US healthcare standards. The hotel supplements its existing wellness programme with elective surgery and cosmetic procedures. Treatments include facelifts, tummy tucks, rhinoplasties, mammoplasties, gastric bypass, Botox, and varicose vein treatments. Following procedures, Casa Velas provides a restful and relaxing retreat for recuperation where patients receive personal attention 24-hours a day from the staff as well as visits from qualified medical personnel to attend to post-surgery needs. For overall health and wellness, Casa Velas offers a week of wellness package, which includes a medical consultation and physical exam upon arrival; two acupuncture treatments, Yoga sessions, curative spa treatments, and unlimited use of the spa’s hydrotherapy area. The package also provides personalized holistic menus to heal, rejuvenate, and energize the body and mind.



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