We’re fortunate in Canada given that we have a great health system, but we’re often subjected to long waits for important lifesaving surgery or wish for better access to specialists. New options have emerged in recent years and more of us are taking advantage, particularly medical tourism.
According to Wikipedia, Medical tourism or health tourism is the travel of people to another country for the purpose of obtaining medical treatment in that country. Traditionally, people would travel from less developed countries to major medical centers in highly developed countries for medical treatment that was unavailable in their own communities. The recent trend is for people to travel from developed countries to third world countries for medical treatments because of cost and other considerations.
Medical tourism is however controversial for a number of reasons, especially in Canada given our national health care system and its expense.
A number of our hospitals are considering ways to boost profitability by hosting international patients. For example Sunnybrook Hospital’s board quietly approved a program at the end of last year. So far they have welcomed a Barbadian woman who paid about $60,000 for radiation treatment for breast cancer, and a Jamaican man who paid $20,000 for radiotherapy for prostate cancer according to the Globe and Mail.
Canada’s publicly funded health-care system is respected globally and would easily attract medical tourists, according to a 2011 analysis from Deloitte Canada’s health services division. The question is, can Canada offer medical services to foreigners without displacing locals whose hefty taxes built the health care system. Opponents argue that patients from abroad could displace tax-paying Canadians or enable wealthy locals to buy their way to the front of the queue.
The Registered Nurses Association is calling for an outright ban; http://rnao.ca/news/ban-medical-tourism-rnao-speaks-out-medicare
Then there is the other side, Canadians traveling abroad for health care services, whatever the reason. This presumably won’t hurt our health care system in the short term, but will start to raise questions why we pay taxes if better health services are available elsewhere.
Regardless, medical tourism continues to grow and provide affordable alternatives. An excellent CNN documentary aired last week titled; ‘Surf, sand … and surgery? Inside the world of medical tourism.’ This is a must watch program that brings much needed perspective to this controversial topic and will help you decide if its good, bad or indifferent
This means that you can get what amounts to a free vacation given the significant savings on your next medical bill by having the work done in Thailand or another medical destination offering lower costs than Canada.
At TriDelta Financial we strongly believe in a balanced lifestyle, which incorporates wealth and health amongst other aspects, which is why we see medical tourism as a viable alternative in certain situations.