Medical tourism is growing in Israel. In fact, the government passed a bill in July that will regulate the industry. The bill will not limit the number of medical tourists who can be treated at hospitals, and it does not specify how much money will be disbursed to compensate small hospitals in areas that do not benefit from medical tourism.
The medical tourism industry brings in millions of shekels each year from 30,000 visiting patients. Until the bill was passed, the industry remained largely unregulated.
The industry came under fire after giving priority to medical tourists and creating shorter waiting lists for them, violating the law. Some doctors were being paid under-the-table for their services.
The truth is that medical tourism is vital to our public health system. We should be pushing to become a hub for medical tourists, but we walk a fine line when we do so. A thriving medical tourism industry may negatively impact the care Israelis receive.
The new bill prevents doctors from receiving higher payments for treating medical tourists, which eliminates the incentive to treat tourists first. It also provides protections for tourists against charlatans. Protection can help make Israel a more attractive destination for medical procedures. But critics argue that the law will prevent medical tourism companies from operating effectively. Without these companies, they argue, the industry would cease to exist.
Although the medical tourism industry may change under this bill, there is still one area that may strive and push a related industry forward: dental tourism.
Dental care for adults is not included in our basic health insurance plans, but the cost of dental services is still significantly lower than in the United States, the UK or Canada.
Israel offers a wide range of dentistry with varying levels of quality – just like in any other country. You’ll find dentists, trained in Israel and abroad, that can offer the most advanced and sophisticated treatments available. Dental care in places like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are on par with dentists in New York, London or Toronto.
Israel’s public healthcare funds operate their own for-profit dental clinics, and each of these clinics has their own price list. And there are numerous private clinics that tend to provide better one-on-one care.
The availability of quality care and more affordable prices could potentially turn Israel into a hub for dental tourism. In particular, the exorbitant cost of dental work in the U.S. has many looking to overseas destinations for help.
Dental tourism is already on the rise here in Israel. Just look at the company Tour and Smile, which provides service and care to dental patients traveling to and from Israel from abroad. Along with treatments, the company helps patients enjoy and explore Israel. Come for dental implants, stay for the beaches and food.
Tour and Smile has managed to work with local dentists and oral surgeons to help patients get the best price possible for their dental work. A full mouth restoration, which costs $80,000-$100,000 in the U.S., can cost $28,000-$35,000 in Israel.