Trump damages inbound medical travel to USA

 

International medical tourism is a far from perfect science at present, but people tracing US inbound medical tourism argue that the controversy around President Trump's travel bans will reduce inbound numbers.

The National Centre for Healthcare Leadership (NCHL) at Rush University is a non-profit organisation that operates the US Cooperative for International Patient Programs (USCIPP) as a membership programme for hospitals that operate in the international patient care market.

The National Centre for Healthcare Leadership medical travel tracking programme only tracks 67 hospital members that are mainly academic medical centres seeking international patients. 50,000 patients from 140 countries went to the USA between July 2014 and July 2015 for treatment at 67 tracked hospitals. Many more international patients were treated at other U.S. hospitals and clinics.

The top five countries that patients came from are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Mexico.

Even if the travel bans on seven mainly Muslim countries are not allowed, the anti-foreigner publicity plus tighter immigration and security will simply deter self-paying medical tourists, particularly from the Middle East and Hispanic regions, as they have plenty of other countries that they can go to and where some of those countries are already hinting at targeting that business.

Most people in the US medical tourism business have stayed quiet, as they prefer to avoid a Trump tweet or speech threatening their funding, reputation and professional status.

The ban could harm patients who need care the most, and frustrate their doctors and hospitals that have been preparing for their arrival. Many overseas patients go for cancer, orthopaedic and other complex treatment that may not be readily available at home.

It has taken years to get inbound medical travel numbers back up after a significant dip in people traveling to the USA for medical treatment after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Fewer international patients might be a problem for hospitals, as they tend to pay higher prices than local ones where the insurer pays the bills.

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