Few Americans travel overseas for medical care

by Lynne Peeples ,  Reuters | 2010-12-31

(Reuters Health) - Traveling to foreign countries for medical procedures, treatments or surgeries -- so-called 'medical tourism' -- may not be as cost saving or as popular among U.S. residents as previously thought, suggests a new survey of companies promoting the practice.

The international travel of wealthy patients from poor countries to prestigious U.S. medical centers is well known. In recent years, however, another trend has emerged: people living in wealthy countries traveling afar to find lower cost care, or even procedures that may not be available domestically.

Since its rise, debates have flared over the dangers and ethics of medical tourism, from concerns over the use of procedures that have not been rigorously tested to the potential for citizens of poor nations to be neglected in favor of serving the "tourists."

Yet little hard data regarding the actual medical tourism market has been available.

To fill in that gap, Brandon Alleman of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, in Iowa City, and his colleagues conducted a phone survey of businesses engaged in facilitating overseas medical travel for U.S. residents.

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