Little more than two decades ago, the term medical tourism applied mainly to people driving across a nearby border for affordable dental care, or wealthy people jet setting halfway across the world for exotic procedures.
Times have changed --- and dramatically. Patients Beyond Borders projected that in 2014 about 11 million people worldwide would receive about $50 billion in care as medical tourists.
Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of those did so Mexico, many in the Mexican state of Baja California. Medical tourism is growing so quickly that even those numbers might be quite low.Why has medical tourism become so popular?
With medical tourism trips, the total costs (including travel and lodging) often are far less than the price of a procedure alone in the United States and many other countries. Typical costs can be from 25 to 80 percent lower.
Today, more of the uninsured or underinsured are becoming medical tourists as the quality and affordability of global health care grows and becomes better known.
Even for many who are insured, medical care in another country costs less than what their insurance deductible for the procedure would be at home.
Some medical tourists seek out international specialists or alternative treatments unavailable at home. Some love the more personalized, warm and attentive care, and welcome much shorter wait times.
Still others are attracted by the opportunity to combine a medical procedure with travel --- while others appreciate the privacy that such treatment offers.