Medical tourism provides high-quality care with less financial suffering. Because the cost of U.S. healthcare remains high, medical tourism could save an American patient thousands of dollars on procedures such as cosmetic or dental surgeries—as long as they are willing to travel to a foreign country where the costs are considerably lower.
The concept of traveling for medical care is nothing new, but the modern concept of medical tourism—traveling to foreign countries specifically for lower cost of care—has only emerged in the past 10 to 15 years, David E. Williams, cofounder and principal of MedPharma partners, and author of HealthBusinessBlog.com, said.
But “in a mainstream way it’s really only started to take off in the past year or two,” because more people are traveling around the world than they were ten years ago, and because the Internet has made long-distance communication more practical, he said.
The numbers of clients for MedRetreat, an American medical tourism services company, have nearly doubled each year since 2005, with approximately 200 clients in 2005, 350 clients in 2006 and 650 clients in 2007, Patrick Marsek, the company’s managing director, said.
Most clients are paying for health care procedures out of their pocket, specifically uninsured or under-insured American patients in need of costly medical surgeries, and clients who seek elective cosmetic or dental procedures, Marsek said.
“There’s a huge range of potential cost savings, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent depending on where [they] go and which procedures [are done],” Marsek said.