Health care without borders


There are new studies indicating that the number of people traveling abroad for medical treatment have been greatly exaggerated. This includes previous blogs of mine where I reported the figure to be 750,000 in 2006. This same number has re-emerged with the accounting firm Deloitte LLP for health tourists in 2007. However more recent sources come up with much lower numbers:

Josef Woodman, author of the consumer guide Patients Beyond Borders, puts the 2007 number closer to 180,000. (And the) global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. released a study in May that said the trend is far smaller than commonly reported: It put the number of all medical travelers – not just Americans – at 60,000 to 85,000 per year.

However, these numbers do not include patients seeking treatment in neighboring countries, such as people traveling from the US over the Mexican border for dental treatment.

Woodman has calculated the threshold for going abroad at $6,000 for the total amount of out-of-pocket cost for treatment in the United States including consultation, procedure and hospital stay. Only if you spend more than that are you likely to save money if you travel to get treatment abroad. In Britain with the legitmization of top-up fees,  it could be a while before this makes economic sense for most people. Although with better quality, service, speed and fewer attendant risks in healthcare abroad, those that can afford it may be tempted to splash out.