Medical Tourism

April 10, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 14
Will rising health costs trigger a post-coronavirus revival?
By Kerry Dooley Young


The steady growth in U.S. health care costs may lead to a renewal of interest in medical tourism, once international travel becomes feasible again. Before the coronavirus outbreak, one group had projected that as many as 2.2 million people would leave the United States this year for medical treatments. Yet even that would have been far short of the 16 million once expected, as enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 initially caused interest to wane. But despite the act's protections, many Americans are finding medical care unaffordable. More Americans may be willing to look abroad for bargains, as is already seen in cases of retirees going to Mexico for dental care, experts say. And cheaper costs are not the only reason Americans and others have left home for medical care. They have also gone abroad for experimental treatments they cannot obtain in their own countries. Many physicians and ethicists have warned about the risks of treatments abroad, saying some are unproven and the danger of costly complications is substantial.

Howard Staab (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Sondeep Shankar)
Howard Staab prepares to return home to North Carolina after surgery to repair a heart valve in India in 2004. Staab traveled abroad for the procedure because of its high cost in the U.S. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Sondeep Shankar)
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