The focus for many of those here in Las Vegas at the Health Care Globalization Summit has been on US demand for medical tourism. For Americans looking at paying tens of thousands of dollars -- even hundreds of thousands -- for surgery, the prospect of getting the same work done for as little as 10 per cent of the price makes medical tourism attractive.
Just look at the numbers in a US News and World Report cover story this week, comparing the cost of surgery in the US and overseas. Heart bypass surgery in India looks like a deal at $7,000, when compared with $70,000 to $130,000 for the same work in the U.S., according to the magazine's numbers.
But for Canadians, who can get the work done for free, $7,000 can look expensive. For them, the incentive is the waiting list. After a long enough wait, $7,000 can start to look good.
I bumped into a Canadian consultant at the conference who is researching medical tourism from a anadian perspective. Janet Walker is also an adjunct nursing professor at the University of British Columbia. She's found that Canadians generally feel guilty about paying for medical care, especially if it means faster service. It's become part of the Canadian psyche to consider it unethical to pay for faster care, she said, including paying to go overseas.
But Walker says it is also unethical to keep people waiting weeks, months or even years to get surgery, and expects more people to warm to the idea in the future.
Today, we will be getting a report on the pace of growth in medical tourism. Much of the reporting on the relatively new industry has so far been anecdotal, so a comprehensive report should be interesting.