Unions Reacting to Overseas Health Care Services
Unions are opposing a move among employers to send workers abroad for lower-cost medical services, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, such opposition "has brought to the fore a critical question in the path of globalization of the health care industry -- who is liable if something goes wrong in an overseas hospital?" In addition, "underlying all this is the even more explosive issue of potential job losses in the American health care industry," the Times reports.
India -- where medical services are up to 80% cheaper than in the U.S. -- could garner as much as $20 billion by 2012 from providing health care to foreigners, according to a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Last year 150,000 overseas patients traveled to India to receive medical care, though only a small number were U.S. residents.
The pressure to outsource health care is inevitable as employers attempt to cut costs, according to Aaditya Mattoo, an economist with the World Bank who specializes in global services trade.
Harpal Singh, chair of New Delhi-based Fortis Healthcare and co-chair of the Working Group on Healthcare, said, "The health care opportunity has the potential to outshine outsourcing and deliver big advantages for both Indian and U.S. businesses."
However, the United Steelworkers -- the largest industrial union in North America with more than 850,000 members -- said it does not support sending U.S. residents abroad to receive health care.
Union spokesperson Stan Johnson said, "We are confident that we are in a position to block any employees being exported to India, Thailand or Mexico." Johnson added, "The ailing American health care system cannot be cured by sending patients abroad" (Rai, New York Times, 10/11).