The government is planning to form a working group to explore the possibilities of linking Indian hospitals, wellness centres and Ayurveda clinics with foreign insurance firms to boost medical tourism in the country, Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel has said. He said the aim is to ensure that foreign nationals seeking medical treatment in India can arrive in the country with their own insurance, which would be recognised by all health centres here.
"We will form a working group to explore the possibilities to enrol foreign insurance firms with Indian health centres so that people can use these for treatment here. So, when they arrive, they have their insurance in place. This will be especially helpful for those arriving from Iraq or Southeast Asian countries," the minister told PTI in an interview.
Officials also said the ministry has recommended that foreign tourists visiting India may be offered attractively priced COVID-19 insurance covers as part of the ministry's plans to revive the sector post the coronavirus crisis.
"The working group will provide us a model on which our system can be based. We are also in discussions with domestic insurance companies and departments concerned here," Mr Patel said.
Officials said the ministry is studying insurance policies introduced by Singapore and other countries.
According to a report published by the Allied Market Research, the global medical tourism market accounted for $104.68 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $273.72 billion by 2027, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.8 per cent from 2020 to 2027.
The sector is growing rapidly, say officials, but limited medical coverage, lengthy or partial reimbursement by payers and visa approval issues hamper its growth.
"We have said that we should also have an authentic list of all our wellness centres and Ayush Hospitals so that we can properly publicise them. This will also help foreign tourists to know how many such centres we have and make a choice. "We are also working towards granting visas to foreign tourists based on recommendations from these centres and hospitals," Mr Patel said.
More than 130 countries around the world are competing for a pie of this global business. The popular medical tourism destinations include India, Brunei, Cuba, Columbia, Hong Kong, Hungry, Jordan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and the USA, among others.
Medical tourism encompasses primarily and predominantly biomedical procedures, combined with travel and tourism.
In India, the total number of inward medical tourists doubled in a span of just three years. In 2017, around 22 per cent arrivals from West Asia was for medical purposes, followed by 15.7 per cent from Africa, according to the Indian Tourism Statistics 2018 report.