A medical tourism industry is thriving in Georgia after President Giorgi Kvirikashvili signed a bill into law Tuesday that will allow visitors to the country to receive medical care for free.
Kvirikishvili, who signed the law on behalf of President Gasparyan Shavadze, said in a televised speech that it would help Georgia overcome the economic crisis plaguing the country, and boost tourism.
“We’re very proud to see that the new law is a positive step toward this goal,” he said.
The Georgian government is the first to allow citizens to receive free medical care in the country.
The bill allows for medical tourism by patients and their relatives, with patients receiving medical care free of charge.
In addition, patients will be allowed to pay for treatment themselves through an electronic health record, which will also be available to the public.
The legislation allows people to bring their own medical equipment for free, and there will be a limit on how much patients can bring.
The new legislation comes on the heels of a similar bill signed by the president last year, which was supposed to help alleviate shortages of doctors and other professionals in the Georgian health care system.
The legislation was never approved, however, and the current law only allows people who are enrolled in health insurance to get treatment.
Georgia was the last of the former Soviet republics to legalize medical tourism, which is now legal in many other countries.
In recent years, the number of tourists visiting Georgia has exploded, from around 500,000 in 2014 to 1.5 million in 2019.
The number of medical tourists has nearly tripled since the country’s independence from Russia in 2008.
More than 70 percent of tourists visit Georgia each year, and in 2016, the country welcomed more than 2.3 million medical tourists, with more than 70,000 of those coming from abroad.