Boston's cash-strapped teaching hospitals, often the choice of the rich and powerful from around the world when they are ill, are now actively wooing cash-paying foreigners.
Partners HealthCare System, which owns Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, recently signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal to provide the United Arab Emirates with specialty care for the country's military personnel and their families, and training and consulting services for the country's physicians.
Partners is also in negotiations with the government of Bermuda and private insurers in that country to become a preferred provider of health services for people who have to leave the island for care, said David Jones, head of the Partners International Program.
Partners has been in discussions with healthcare providers or insurers in China, Greece, India, Italy, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and several Latin American countries, Jones added.
Foreign patients account for 2% of Partner's admissions but 20% of its revenue.
Treating wealthy foreigners helps the hospitals offset reduced payments negotiated by HMOs, Medicare and Medicaid and compensates for the costs of giving free care to the poor, officials said.
MODERN HEALTHCARE first reported on this trend nearly three years ago (June 2, 1997, p. 30).
Other Boston-area teaching hospitals have begun working together as part of an organization known as Boston Health Care International.
New England Medical Center has run a successful international patient center for years. Spokeswoman Catherine Bromberg said the hospital has contracts to provide care for patients from Argentina and Italy.
At Children's Hospital, Boston, pediatric patients come from more than 40 countries for care, officials said.
Treating foreign patients "is an important part of the mission of the hospital," said Laurie Cowan, vice president of strategic services at Children's. "The revenue is important to our bottom line."