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.”