Medical "Tourism" or Medical Necessity?

June 15, 2009
Lisa Schulmeister

In a Gallup poll, 24% of Americans say they would consider traveling outside the US for cancer treatment.

In a Gallup poll, 24% of Americans say they would consider traveling outside the US for cancer treatment.

In May 2009, a Gallup poll of 5,050 adults in the US was conducted to determine willingness to travel outside of the US for medical treatment. Overall, 29% of Americans said they would consider getting medical treatment overseas, 24% would consider seeking cancer treatment, and only 10% would consider having plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures.

Recent media coverage of botched procedures, along with the fact that cosmetic surgery is not medically necessary, may have contributed to the low interest of Americans in going outside the US for cosmetic procedures.

Not surprisingly, poll respondents without health insurance were more likely to consider going abroad for medical treatment; 37% would seek cancer care outside the US, compared to 22% with health insurance. Currently, there is an estimated 48 million Americans without health insurance coverage.

This poll suggests that a sizable number of Americans would consider traveling outside of the US for medical care. As an oncology nurse, I am used to patients asking if they should travel to a comprehensive cancer center for a consultation and in some cases, treatment. I now need to prepare a response in the event patients ask about going overseas for cancer treatment.

Interestingly, medical tourism companies are popping up on Internet searches. Blog postings recommend using a medical tourism company to locate reputable medical facilities and assist with transportation and medical evaluation arrangements. Most of the people posting comments recommend overseas care, and report that they were treated well ("like VIPs") and had good outcomes of care.

Source:

Gallup Poll: Americans Consider Crossing Borders for Medical Care. Available at www.gallup.com/poll/118423/Americans-Consider-Crossing-Borders-Medical-Care.aspx