Proposed law would formalize medical tourism

Lawmakers have received a bill that would create another layer of bureaucracy in the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo specifically for medical tourism.

The measure also would install the private medical tourism promotional company known as Promed into a committee with equal footing with ministries.

The proposed medical tourism committee would develop a seal of quality, inspect medical providers and obtains names of all foreigners who seek medical services here, according to a draft of the bill, No. 19.603.

The bill would formalize as a government project the seal of quality. Promed, formally known as the Council for the International Promotion of Costa Rica Medicine, already has a seal of quality to which 17 providers have subscribed, according to the organization’s Web site.

The new entity would be called the Consejo de Asesor and would be made up of Promed, the tourism institute, the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio, the Cámara Nacional de Turismo and the  Ministerio de Salud.

The bill would award this committee broad, unspecified  powers, including developing and implementing public policy and setting parameters, certifications, licensing, evaluations, providing reports and making regulations.

The Consejo would have the job of creating a national strategy and setting up an international promotional marketing program, the bill says.

The Consejo also would design and promote Web sites and other electronic platforms to promote medical tourism services here.

The Consejo also would evaluate periodically all the facilities and installations that are certified for medical tourism.

Those medical providers that seek a seal of quality would have to promise to conform to a code of ethics and provide a list of their international customers for statistical purposes, the bill says.

The Consejo Asesor would have the power to suspend medical providers from using the seal of quality in the event there were reports of bad practices, says the bill.

Recipients of the seal also would promise to adhere to the fees established by the various medical colegios, says the bill.

The Consejo would meet just once a month, but an entity called the Oficina de Turismo de Salud would be created within the tourism institute to handle day-to-day responsibilities.

The bill does not say where money would originate for promotion. The tourism institute has an annual budget for marketing, but the amount directed to promote medical tourism has never been outlined. Most medical providers here operate their own marketing efforts, and they are assisted by what are known as facilitators who receive commissions for directing patients to the various medical firms.

The bill does not say if the medical tourism marketing effort would be restricted to the providers who hold the seal of quality.

The country’s tourism promotional efforts in general have not been impressive. The most recent campaign is Save the Americans, a Web site that seeks to tell Americans that they need more vacation.

The Alexa Web monitoring service said Sunday night that the Web site ranks in 1,610,587th place globally and in 513,758th place in the United States.

The Web site also does not show any changes since it was set up in December by an Atlanta, Georgia, ad agency, even though the tourism market changes dramatically here throughout the year.

A companion site for Canadians was listed Sunday as being in 7,594,950th place.

Lawmakers heard about the new tourism law June 2, but the text was not available online until late laat week. The measure went to committee.costaricamedical061915

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