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One less Problem! Caution tips for medical tourists

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The last decade has witnessed a rapid enhancement in the medical services available in India. Once scarcely accessible, medical services are burgeoning in supply, and with it the demand of quality healthcare facilities in our country is increasing concomitantly. At present, India is home to several world class hospitals, mainly in the private sector, and the healthcare industry is booming as new and better hospitals are sprouting throughout the length and breadth of the country. With standardizations such as accrediting quality of doctors, labs, surgery, etc. it is easy to select any quality healthcare institute from anywhere in the world. Many countries, especially in the Middle East and Africa look to countries like India for world class treatments at much lower costs. At present, even Europeans and Americans are waking up to the quality medical expertise available in the country. If you are a patient and heading to India for medical treatment however, one sound advice- You should keep an eye on one of the most volatile commodities in the foreign exchange market i.e. the Rupee. To ensure that your money stretches as far as possible, you will have to dodge the margin creep trap offered by traditional money changers.

The medical tourists who visit top private hospitals in India from all over the world have two reasons in mind-quality and affordability. Indian medical standards are renowned the world over, and the costs are much less, especially for relatively expensive treatments. Moreover, such treatments are not easily covered by the local medical insurance of tourists thus excessively stressing their overall medical expenses.

With a boom in medical tourism, allied services and industries in India are also grabbing the spotlight, a few of them legal, some tethering on the edge while others are blatantly illegal. The increasing number of medical tourists has subsequently given rise to unscrupulous activities in forex trading. This has become a common affair, especially in the case of ‘Health tourists’, who are more prone to fall prey to the malicious schemes of illegal foreign exchange dealers. These fraudsters use the emotional vulnerability arising from the patients condition to overcharge scam and use other means of graft to dupe the medical tourists.

These tourists have a tendency to overlook the extra cost over the course of medical treatment, which cumulatively creates a massive difference in the overall medical expenses. The traditional form of transaction serves as the best ammunition for such networks to trap medical tourists in their vicious cycle. This is also because the masses are less informed about the marketplace model in the ‘forex’ sector.

The first point of encounter for medical patients and their relatives regarding foreign exchange is at the airport exchange counter. Airport exchange counters across the globe can be up to 10% or more expensive than the local market. The reason behind these biased prices is that airports are the first consumer touchpoint within a country and tourists often exchange currency within an airport itself to avoid further complications, in case they couldnt discover other money exchange options en route to their destination. Moreover, this is where the touts come in “ right at the airport. The medical tourists are considered as a high potential asset by many hospitals as they are not only willing to pay extra, but the hospital also receives considerably high amount of share in illegal forex trade. These tourists are, therefore, deceived by small local travel agents or their employees who have been tipped off by the hospitals beforehand about their arrival.

Turning a blind eye to legal obligations, very few hospitals obtain a Full-Fledged Money Changing (FFMC) license from RBI. They moreover curb the decision-making power of customers by limiting transparency in the money exchange process. The currency exchange rates are also not displayed at such hospitals as the hospital cash counters often have arrangements with local agents. These agents, in turn, get the foreign money changed from a local FFMC but the cost to patient can well be 3 to 6% more for standard currencies such as the US Dollar and 5 to 8% more for other currencies over standard inter-bank rates.

With the advent of the internet, thankfully, retail forex marketplaces in our country have evolved which the foreign patients and their relatives can access from anywhere across the globe. BookMyForex is one such platform which provides a very accurate understanding of forex conversion rates to their customers. BookMyForex started the revolution of online retail forex and remittance services in India. It offers online currency conversions at live rates that are updated every three seconds from across 700 cities in the country. This facilitates a transparent foreign exchange channel that updates its rates based on more than 5000 channel partner locations throughout the country to provide customers the best available price.

Moreover, such services are made available to the consumers with an additional option of door-to-door delivery at over 187 cities in India. These services prove to be vital for respective patients and their relatives who are not well aware about a citys geography and are more prone to foreign exchange frauds. Additionally, BookMyForex, being Indias largest marketplace for currencies and many essential forex products also encourage the money changers throughout the country to compete on their platform and transparently display the best quote for each and every currency.

Being medical tourists, patients and their families should be able to give undivided attention towards the treatment of their relatives. Not much had been done earlier to protect and empower medical tourists, instead, hefty transaction fees were charged that ranged from 6 to 10% during currency conversions. Though, the online forex services are still taking their first strides, they have the potential as they have shown evidently, to be the most effective answer to the biased forex trading that is still pitted heavily against the visitors coming to India.

Authored by:

Sudarshan Motwni, CEO & Co-founder, Book My Forex

Sudarshan Motwni, CEO & Co-founder, BookMyForex

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