Medical Tourism’s Looming Boom


 By David Cogswell | Travel Pulse

It is not yet known if Trumpcare will become the law of the land. But if it does, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 15 million Americans will fall off the health insurance rolls next year.

That number will rise to 22 million over 10 years, and insurance costs will skyrocket for older Americans—the ones who need healthcare most.

According to the New York Times, under Trumpcare the CBO estimated that a 64-year-old with an annual income of $56,800 in 2026 will pay an average annual premium of $20,500—three times more than under the Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare).

There are many possible ramifications of this, but one thing it is likely to boost is medical tourism.

By simple market dynamics, when prices rise, buyers shop around for better deals. As prospects diminish in America, traveling to foreign countries for more affordable healthcare will become increasingly attractive.

Medical tourism is already booming. But under Trumpcare, its growth rate will soar.

Baby Boomers on the Chopping Block

The baby boom generation—the dominant market demographic in the U.S. since the 1950s—is now reaching the time of life when people inevitably need more and more healthcare. The Affordable Care Act, set some limits to related companies’ profits, but those may soon be eliminated by Trumpcare.

This will be a great financial windfall for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies who are set to reap unprecedented profits from it.

But likely so will medical tourism as Americans look overseas for affordable options. Americans who know how to travel will not be a captive market. For those who fear losing access to affordable care in the U.S., the possibilities of travel abroad can provide some reassurance that they may have alternatives.

One of the top drivers for the rapid growth of medical tourism is the rise of international accreditation agencies that can take the risk and worry out of going abroad for medical care.

According to Patients Beyond Boarders, a consumer research organization, “The US-based Joint Commission launched its international affiliate agency in 1999, the Joint Commission International (JCI). In order to be accredited by the JCI, an international hospital must meet the same set of rigorous standards set forth in the US by the Joint Commission. More than 600 hospitals and clinical departments around the world have now been awarded JCI accreditation and that number is growing by about 20 percent per year.”

Walls Up, Borders Down

According to Patients Beyond Borders, an estimated 1.4 million Americans traveled abroad in 2016 for medical care, and the market has been growing at 15-25 percent a year. The association estimates the size of the market at $45-72 billion annually. And that was under the Affordable Care Act.

If Trumpcare passes, those numbers will surely soar.

The savings by going abroad range from 20-30 percent in Brazil to 65-90 percent in India. Savings in Thailand are 50-75 percent and 40-65 percent in Mexico. With healthcare costs soaring into tens of thousands of dollars, the cost of an overseas flight is barely a blip on that scale.

The most popular kinds of treatments Americans are currently seeking abroad include cosmetic surgery, dentistry, heart transplants, orthopedic surgery, cancer treatments and fertility treatments. The top destinations are Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey. Mexico and South and Southeast Asia are seeing the largest numbers of inbound medical tourists.

Ironically, if Trumpcare passes, it may end up being the Mexicans who want to build a wall after all.

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