Healthy US interest in 'medical tourism'

by Christopher Bowe in New York ,  Financial Times Limited | 2008-02-20

Two in five Americans would consider travelling abroad for a medical procedure if it cost half the US price and quality was at least equal, according to a Deloitte consumer health report published today.

The data highlight the exploding interest in so-called medical tourism, where patients seek treatment for elective surgeries such as hip replacements available more cheaply overseas.

Medical tourism has surged into the healthcare debate as costs rise and consumers are asked to share a growing proportion of up-front expenses. The practice was once seen as a desperate move to seek care that was unavailable, unapproved or dangerously cheaper than procedures in the US. But healthcare experts have noted increasing interest in the practice from consumers, hospitals and even employers. Some researchers are looking at whether US employers would be willing to pay for a covered employee's medical procedure of equivalent quality abroad so as to lower overall healthcare costs.

Healthcare has been a critical issue in the US presidential campaign this year, with both Democratic candidates fighting over the detail of their respective healthcare programmes.

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