A key factor contributing to the growth of medical tourism is high health care costs in developed economies. For Colombia, trends in the US are particularly relevant. According to Trip4Care, a medical tourism broker, even patients who are insured in the US find the out-of-pocket cost of certain operations can be extremely high. The company cites the case of a US citizen who needed knee surgery on both legs. The procedure would run to $40,000 in the US, but the broker arranged a week-long all-included visit for him and his wife to Cali, Colombia which, including the operation, cost $26,000. According to a survey by the US-based Medical Tourism Association, 61% of respondents said that the cost savings are the prime motivator for seeking medical care overseas.
The main hospitals attracting medical tourism are in Bogotá and Medellín. Bogotá is strong in cardiology, while in Medellín specialities include laser eye surgery, cosmetic surgery and dentistry. A survey by business publication América Economía showed that Medellín had eight of the top 42 hospitals and clinics in Latin America. Some 300,000 plastic surgery operations are carried out each year in Colombia.