Americans don’t like to travel for healthcare but access and big savings can sway this decision.
Medical tourism has been promoted as an inexpensive and even enjoyable way to see the world while getting high-quality cosmetic and elective surgeries for pennies on the dollar, compared with U. S. healthcare costs.
Despite that rosy outlook, however, most Americans are just not interested in leaving the country for their healthcare needs.
The underlying conditions needed to support medical tourism are largely being met, experts say. The quality and depth of foreign medical facilities has continued to improve. Costs are still a bargain for many procedures, and medical tourism travel brokers have become better at putting together the packages needed for a successful experience.
Forecasts for attractive growth rates for medical tourism ran head on into the recession, notes Paul H. Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, a unit of the consulting firm that closely follows medical tourism trends. If that wasn’t enough, the expected support of employers and health insurers has failed to materialize.
“We had estimated that employers would drive the medical tourism market,” Keckley says. “We thought they would approach the medical insurance companies and tell them that they needed to add [medical tourism] benefits.”
“But the major employers are not clamoring for medical tourism right now,” he continues. Healthcare inflation has been under 4 percent each of the past two years, he says, so employers are under less pressure to trim healthcare expenses. And while such savings are still a major priority, “medical tourism doesn’t show up as a top-tier issue.”
It’s also not a top-tier issue for consumers. Deloitte conducts an annual survey of U. S. and global healthcare trends. Among consumers from a dozen countries, Americans are the least likely to go outside their home country for healthcare.