Medical Tourism on the Rise for Americans

Free markets have a funny way of benefiting the consumer. The Heartland Institute is taking a look at how medical tourism is helping American patients receive quality medical care outside of the U.S. for less — and how it’s forcing lawmakers to rethink paradigms:

Approximately 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for medical care in 2007, and as many as six million will have received health care outside the United States by 2010, the study reports…

“U.S. hospitals have very high cost structures,” said John R. Graham (director of health care policy at the Pacific Research Institute), “largely caused by government regulation that inhibits competition and specialization, requiring general hospitals to be all things to all people. In the long run, as their ‘profitable’ operations disappear overseas, American hospitals will face a crisis that will require policymakers to rethink how they organize the health care safety net.”

“Quality and patient protections vary widely in other countries, just like they do within the United States,” said Michael Cannon, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. ”What we don’t get in the United States is price competition, but that can’t last forever, particularly with foreign providers offering comparable quality at a lower cost.

“Medical tourism can only grow,” Cannon added. ”And that’s a good thing.”

0 thoughts on “Medical Tourism on the Rise for Americans

  1. Many people who are uninsured or under insured are seeking out other countries in order to find affordable high quality care. Another motivator for medical travel is to have procedures done that either aren’t approved in the U.S. like two-level cervical disk replacement (whereas only single-level is approved in the US) or procedures that were just recently approved (like Hip Resurfacing – approved in the US only in 2006) where US surgeons don’t have anywhere near the experience of their counterparts in certain countries.

  2. Major insurers are also starting to get into the medical insurance game. I know that Blue Cross Blue Shield in South Carolina now has an office solely targeted towards medical tourism insurance packages.

    Agreed with point Matt Ottinger’s point on the need for policy makers to rethink how they organize the health care system. India is actually putting some Ministry muscle behind its leading hospitals to help bring in more medical tourist patients.

  3. I don’t know anyone who can’t afford health insurance, but can afford a trip half-way around the world for medical services; however, it still has the ability to get costs down for everyone. I believe in competition, but my guess is that once there are enough deaths and disabilities made public from Americans receiving treatment in foreign countries, the US government will go on a new regulation crusade to protect us, which will end up making things worse. As with most things, there are going to be desperate people who fall victim to scams, and those snake-oil salesmen will ruin it for the legitimate facilities around the globe.