Healthcare Challenges a Gateway for Medical Tourism
Prior to the Affordable Care Act being enacted in the U.S., there were an estimated 47 million uninsured Americans not yet old enough to qualify for Medicare. After five years of historically slow growth, U.S. healthcare spending accelerated significantly in 2014. According to the Health Research Institute, although spending growth in the $2.9 trillion U.S. health economy is expected to slow in 2016 compared to 2015, it will still outpace overall economic inflation. Experts say that even though medication comprises just 10% of total these expenditures, costly new therapies to treat diseases such as hepatitis C and cancer have figured into this increase.
Millions of Americans now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, expanded state Medicaid programs, and jobs created by employers. Since the law was ratified, the number of uninsured has decreased, but many factors have contributed to an ongoing interest in Americans “shopping around” for the highest quality and lowest cost medical care. Economic factors include reductions in healthcare benefits offered by employers, skyrocketing insurance premium costs, higher deductibles, premium benefit limitations, and procedures that are not covered by insurance. Technology has made consumers smarter – online reviews of physicians and hospitals, and cost comparison tools have given patients the ability to better manage their healthcare.
Residents of many other countries, including those with socialized medicine, also face considerable challenges such as prohibitive costs, long waiting lists, and exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. For instance, Canada has universal healthcare, but overburdened emergency rooms and long waiting lists are well recognized issues for its citizens. Then there is China, where the government spent $125 billion between 2009 and 2012 to extend insurance coverage to 95% of the population, but premiums and out-of-pocket costs are unaffordable to most of the country’s 1.357 billion people.