Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Company touts ‘medical tourism’ to Israel for sick pilgrims

JERUSALEM (RNS) Every year, thousands of Americans travel abroad for less-expensive fertility treatments, hip replacements and other medical procedures. Now, an Israel-based tourism company is offering a package that combines medical care with a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 

IsraMedica plans to unveil the initiative Thursday (Feb. 16) at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tenn.  

Eli Knoller, the company's vice president of operations, said IsraMedica already brings about 6,000 nonmedical tourists to Israel every year, the majority of them Christian pilgrims.

The company will market its medical tourism package to Christians who want affordable, high-quality medical care and a spiritual experience all in one.  Every year hundreds of medical tourists undergo procedures in Israel, where top-notch care is less expensive than in the U.S.

IsraMedica will offer elective medical procedures, including in vitro fertilization treatments and heart valve replacements.

"On average, our patients will be saving 62 percent on the cost of their medical treatment," Knoller told Religion News Service. According to IsraMedica materials, a heart bypass operation that would cost, on average, $144,000 in the U.S. costs $27,500 in Israel. In Israel, a gastric bypass procedure costs $11,500 versus $33,000 in the U.S.

IsraMedica-approved physicians and surgeons are either native English speakers or have trained in English-speaking countries, Knoller said.

Depending on the patient's condition and the anticipated recovery time, the company will arrange hotels, transportation and visits to Christian holy sites such as Galilee, Bethlehem and Jerusalem prior to or after a medical procedure.

"The medical tourism component will allow people to have procedures done while on a pilgrimage. They'll walk where Jesus walked and heal where Jesus healed," Knoller said.

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