"Medical Tourism" occurs when people travel all over the world for medical procedures that either cost a lot or have a long wait time in their own country. In Canada with universal health care, the number of medical procedures in 2005 for which people were waiting was 782,936. That means doctors and hospital beds to treat even seriously ill patients are not available on anything near a timely basis. Everyone has to wait. See this video "A Short Course in Brain Surgery for an example.
A friend in San Antonio tells me that her father was a medical tourist who came to the U.S. several years ago for a heart bypass operation. His wait time in Canada was going to be at least three to four months and the family didn't believe he could survive that long. So he flew to San Antonio where the surgery was performed almost immediately, then flew home after recovery from the successful surgery.
If the U.S. votes for a new president who is able to install Universal Health Care, then our country also will have significant wait times for medical treatment. For those able to afford it, they'll travel to other countries--not a good situation for our country's already unfavorable balance of payments.
A sister returned from Costa Rica recently and said that she and her husband saw large signboards that greet tourists with claims of much reduced costs for dental treatment. Will older people with limited savings and poor teeth be attracted? Of course! Why not take a vacation to Costa Rica during the winter to get dental implants? Or why not go to India, Argentina, a Scandanavian country, or Thailand for other medical procedures--most of which will cost much less than what it will cost in the U.S. Moreover, the treatments will be performed by well-trained physicians in good hospitals (if good homework is done to research the selected physicians and medical facilities).
There are good reasons for not traveling to another country for medical treatment: (1) unknown risks; (2) no applied insurance; and (3) inability to sue for damages if the procedure is badly performed. Still, as pointed out in a 60 Minutes news program, people will follow the demands of their pocketbook with respect to getting the most cost effective medical treatments. Will you be a medical tourist if Universal Health Care comes to the U.S.?
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