Hospitals lose billions in hit to medical tourism

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted medical tourism, which has cost hospitals in the U.S. billions of dollars, according to CNBC.

For decades, Americans have traveled abroad to receive medical care, but medical tourism also has been on the rise domestically in recent years.

Americans who seek care abroad often lack health insurance or want a procedure that is not covered by their insurance. Domestically, medical tourism is when patients seek care across state lines, outside their local hospital system. 

Prior to the pandemic, medical travel to Centers of Excellence, such as the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., or Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, were on the rise. Medical tourism also saw a sharp increase domestically after it received support from major companies like Walmart.

But international and domestic medical tourism has cratered during the pandemic as elective surgeries have been postponed and travel has been limited.

David Vequist, PhD, head of the Center for Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas, told CNBC that COVID-19 largely has taken away domestic medical tourism for hospitals in the U.S., one of their largest sources of income.

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