Doctors Without Borders: The Rise Of Medical Tourism


By Tracey Goins

  • Medical tourism is a $439B global market
  • African American travelers economic value in 2018 was $63B

As the cost of healthcare care continues to rise in the U.S., medical tourism, a process of traveling to a different country for procedures is becoming increasingly popular. Pop culture stars like Kim Kardashian West and Nikki Minaj who receive major attention for their shapely physiques have become the modern-day apogee of plastic-surgery normalization. With cost savings of up to 90% for surgical or cosmetic procedures, the $439 billion medical tourism market is expanding quickly.

Why This Matters: Nearly 2 million Americans are expected to travel abroad for medical procedures. The economic value of African American travelers increased in 2018 to $63 billion from $48 billion in 2010. African American “cultural” travelers are the highest spenders, with an average per trip spend of $2,078. With the medical tourism industry aligning itself with the travel industry, it is highly likely the Black dollar will be key in profitability, and continuity of this multi billion dollar phenomenon.

African American “cultural” travelers are the highest spenders, with an average per trip spend of $2,078

The financial implications of medical tourism is profound since its reached a multi-billion dollar market. Travel agencies, healthcare brokers and insurance companies have become major players. Blue Cross Blue Shield actually promotes medical tourism and offers incentives, while other insurance companies have introduced pilot programs for its medical tourists.

In the past, medical tourism generally referenced those who traveled from underdeveloped countries, to highly developed countries for treatments unavailable at home. However, in recent years it equally referred to for people from developed countries, who travel to developing countries for lower-priced medical treatments. Exorbitant U.S. healthcare costs has lead some to travel to other countries for cheaper alternatives and private hospitals are generating major revenue from foreign patients as a result.

Situational Awareness: Cosmetic surgery is cited as the second most popular procedure among medical tourists. The desperation for surgical perfection has replaced the day when talk of cosmetic surgery in the Black community was taboo. Black women will most likely travel abroad to afford the cosmetic services they very much desire.



Tracey Goins

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