The high cost of medical care in the US plus the rationing of medical care in other nations has spurred the growth of medical tourism. As I mentioned in a previous post, outstanding doctors, nurses, and hospital facilities can be found in countries such as Costa Rica, Thailand, India, the Philippines, etc. offering care at costs significantly lower than in the US and without the rationing and waiting times of other countries. One problem with traveling from the US to another nation for medical care is the cost and inconvenience of travel. Additionally, each nation will have its own tort laws, so there are potentially thorny legal issues if a procedure should lead to complications. To over come these issues, I propose establishing floating hospitals, called Medships, parked outside of the 12 mile limits of the US and Europe.
The analogy is to mimic Blueseed‘s idea of parking a cruise ship 12 miles off of the coast of San Francisco to bybass various rules and regulations of the US and its state governments (primarily immigration laws) while being close to the amenities of an area such as Silicon Valley. Additionally, tourist visas are relatively easy to obtain. Such a visa would be sufficient to allow someone to travel to the US, then they could take up work and residence aboard the cruise ship located 12 miles off of the coast where they are then allowed to reside and work since they are not technically inside of the US. While much of the chatter about Blueseed has been about its clever method of skirting immigration laws, much less has been made about the additional benefits of skirting all US, state, and local government rules and regulations. One of the primary reasons for the steady deterioration of the US economy of the past few decades has been the explosive growth in regulations. The constant delays and legal expenses have put a damper on entreprenuerial activity. Blueseed’s idea is a very clever way to deal with the regulatory leviathan that currently oppresses the US.
Since health care in the US is burdened by an almost unimaginable web of rules, regulations, and restrictions (medical school accreditation, insurance mandates, laws stating that only doctors can perform certain procedures, the FDA, etc.), Blueseed suggests a solution. Either cruise ships or oil well platforms could be parked 12 miles off of the coast of the US and to be used as hospitals called Medships. Doctors and nurses would be recruited from nations currently active in medical tourism. They can enter the closest nations on tourist visas, thus avoiding work visa issues. Additionally, there would be no accreditation issues. For example, currently, doctors who attended medical school outside of the US are not permitted to practice in the US unconditionally. Whatever hoops they would have to jump through to be able to practice medicine in the US would be avoided by working on Medships.
The arbitrage opportunity for profits is clear. The price point could be set slightly above that of medical tourism destinations. Costs could be broken into two groups. The first group would be costs associated with the US or Europe, such as food, fuel, and some supplies (others could be obtained cheaper elsewhere). The second group would be personnel costs. Clearly one would have to offer wages above those available in the native land of each employee to entice them to travel such a long distance from home. However, a casual perusal of the difference in costs between the US and Costa Rica for various procedures makes it clear that there is an opportunity to profit from this venture.
Questions that come to mind are qualifications of doctors and nurses and malpractice. Many of these issues for the Medship idea would be the same as those for medical tourism, so that solutions have already been established. Remaining issues would be handled as all issues are on the free market: trial and error.
I don’t have the inclination or expertise to work out in detail how the Medship idea would be implemented. However, it does seem as if it could be a viable idea. Hopefully, some medical entrepreneur can figure out a way to make it work.