The Win-Win Economics of Medical Tourism

Growing trend of traveling for health care doesn't have to hurt anyone
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2008 2:28 PM CDT
Medical tourism can have a positive impact for both rich and poor nations, the Economist reports.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The spread of “medical tourism”—uninsured and underinsured patients seeking cheap health care in Southeast Asia or Latin America—has fueled fears that developing nations will divert resources from state health systems caring for their own citizens. But, the Economist argues, “if governments make the best of the boom, then medical tourism should improve the health of rich and poor alike.”

The best hospitals in developing lands rival those in the First World and undercut American institutions' prices by 85%. But the influx of foreigners could “create jobs, tempt home émigré doctors and nurses, encourage locals to train as medics, spread know-how and treat local people.” Losing patients abroad will also spur improved health care in wealthy nations. Following a "sensible model" creates a win-win for all.