Outbound medical travel fell by nearly 14% between 2007 and 2009 largely because of the recession, according to a new study from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
The study found that the number of Americans traveling overseas for more cost-effective surgeries and other medical care fell from an estimated 750,000 in 2007 to 540,000 in 2008. That number is projected to rebound a bit in 2009 with a projected 648,000 Americans seeking care abroad.
“The prolonged U.S. recession has had a significant impact on patients' ability to afford medical care, and by extension their use of medical tourism,” said Paul Keckley, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
The study also suggested that outbound medical travel is likely to pick up in 2010, growing an estimated 35% as the economy recovers. But the report's authors also noted that healthcare reform policies are likely to have an impact on the medical tourism industry, although it is too soon to know whether the effects will curve or spur growth of medical travel. A 2008 report by the same group predicted a boom in medical tourism.