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  • Millions of people travel abroad for medical treatment, from dental work to major heart surgery.

  • All done at a fraction of the cost back home.

  • Medical tourism brings in billions of dollars a year worldwide.

  • So, we wanted to know: What exactly is medical tourism?

  • Well, since the mid 20th century, healthcare costs have exploded in many developed countries, especially in the United States.

  • Some have blamed this on the closed system of procedure and drug pricing, which is not allowed for free market competition.

  • So when prices rise, they don't go back down.

  • Other factors, like exaggerated insurance billing, malpractice lawsuits, and infrequent but serious doctor visits contribute to increasing costs.

  • According to a 2011 OECD report, a procedure like a heart bypass can cost more than $100,000 dollars in the US.

  • However, that same procedure could run less than $4,000 dollars in Mexico.

  • For those without health insurance or high deductibles, medical tourism represents a viable and beneficial alternative.

  • For Americans, the most common medical tourism destinations include Thailand, India, Mexico, and Cuba.

  • In many of these developing countries, medical tourism represents a lucrative and growing source of economic revenue.

  • Countries are actually competing for medical tourists.

  • In Japan, the government is instituting new policies that will help increase the number of hospitals accepting foreign patients.

  • Worldwide, the industry is said to be worth up to $55 billion dollars.

  • However, there are certain drawbacks.

  • The US Center for Disease Control has registered several safety concerns over higher rates of bacterial infections and diseases for medical tourists.

  • These can be attributed to less strict sanitation rules in other countries and and the presence of contagious diseases that are otherwise rare in the US.

  • In 2014, 19 American women, who traveled to the Dominican Republic for plastic surgery, contracted bacterial infections.

  • Additionally, transplant tourism has become a highly controversial issue.

  • Medical tourists can obtain organs and transplant operations without waiting in a long line, and for less money.

  • But the World Health Organization says that the organs often come from vulnerable people.

  • Most of the world has completely banned transplant tourism.

  • However, organs can still be purchased on the black market.

  • Medical tourism also presents problems for locals who now face more competition for healthcare in their own country.

  • Wealthy outsiders can crowd out native citizens, and even raise the prices for certain procedures by increasing demand.

  • Healthcare providers, too, can be required to change their practices in order to accommodate and cater to foreigners.

  • A recent report on healthcare in developed countries ranked the US last in effectiveness and efficiency.

  • This is despite the fact that the US spends more money on healthcare per person than any other country.

  • Presently, the future of medical tourism is expected to remain profitable as experts predict billions of dollars in revenue growth for the coming years.

  • Another unusual type of tourism is birth tourism.

  • To learn more about this controversial practice, watch this video.

  • The law allowing citizenship by birth didn't exist prior to the passing of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

  • It was passed as a way to guarantee the citizenship to African Americans and their children, this was done in the wake of civil war and the evolution of slavery.

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Millions of people travel abroad for medical treatment, from dental work to major heart surgery.

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