Medical Tourism, United States and Criticisms

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Medical tourism is billion dollar industry. Millions of people seek out for cross-border medical options. From plastic surgery to heart surgery to dental work, there is specific medical destination for everything. People can enjoy medical services at fraction of the costs back home. The ever-increasing healthcare costs since last few decades have popularized medical tourism. Let’s look into detail on how it impacts U.S as a consumer and service provider. We will also look at the downsides of this new section of the travel industry.

Why most medical tourists are Americans?

Americans seek out for medical options across the border, due to inflated domestic healthcare costs. Drug pricing, administrative costs and work rules are major issues faced by the nation. It doesn’t allow for free market conditions. Prices are bound to be on the incline. Even ambulances could cost in the range of few thousand dollars. Exaggerated insurance billings are an often overlooked issue as well.

A procedure like heart transplant in Asia could cost 20 times less than in the U.S. Americans favorite medical destinations since the turn of the century are Cuba, India, Mexico and Thailand. Countries like Thailand, Singapore, Dubai and South Korea have state of art medical facilities. For developing countries, medical tourism generates a sizeable income. Countries like Japan are relaxing visa entry and admittance to domestic hospitals, for foreigners.

U.S.A as modern medical destination…

It was not long ago, U.S was the preferred medical destination for everyone and it still is. Conditions like Parkinson’s are better treated here than say, China, Middle-East or India. U.S has the advanced cardiovascular or neurological treatments. Top physicians from other countries study and train here. The nation retains its reputation in health care, even now. The outgoing traffic consists mostly of patients who are uninsured or underinsured.

Half the medical travelers, who don’t worry about costs and proximity, travel to the U.S. When you consider Europe, they are not always open to up to date tech. Around 60,000 – 80,000 medical travelers visit the U.S annually, according to McKinsey & Co, an American consulting firm. One in three medical travelers simply prefers better care. One in six medical travelers seeks quicker access to medical procedures. The U.S delivers in both these parameters.

Criticisms of medical tourism

There are downsides to medical tourism as well. The U.S Center for disease control reported several safety concerns. Most of it has to do with bacterial infections and diseases from tourists. It involves both the outgoing as well as incoming medical tourists. It’s strong criticism, owing to a lack of strict sanitary guidelines in some parts of the world. Presence of contagious diseases that are rare in the home country is a serious red flag.

In 2014, 19 returning medical tourists, who visited the Dominican Republic for plastic surgery contracted bacterial infections. Organ transplants have raised ethical questions. Medical tourists can obtain transplants in a fast-tracked route. W.H.O confirms that the organs come from vulnerable people. The Philippines has banned kidney transplant tourism altogether. Moreover, the locals face more competition for healthcare in their homeland. That’s as far as the criticisms go.