Health Tourism

Health Tourism

Social Welfare through International Trade

David Reisman

In this unique and pathbreaking book, David Reisman examines the relatively new phenomenon of health travel. He presents a multidisciplinary account of the way in which lower costs, shorter waiting times, different services, and the chance to combine recreational tourism with a check-up or an operation all come together to make medical travel a new industry with the potential to create jobs and wealth, while at the same time giving sick people high-quality care at an affordable price.

Chapter 6: Health Tourism: The Benefits

David Reisman

Subjects: economics and finance, health policy and economics, welfare economics, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, economics of social policy, health policy and economics


International trade delivers the goods. The American patient is importing a service when he travels to Thailand to spend American dollars in a local clinic. The British hospital is exporting a service when it supplies major surgery to a Lebanese who has bought British first. What is true of commodities is just as true of invisibles. International trade makes both parties better off in their own estimation. This chapter examines the ways in which both the importing and the exporting nation can reap gains from medical trade. The focus is on countries. Generalisation is always a problem where the countries are not all the same. Perhaps the them-and-us should be seen as a first approximation. Singapore, India and the United States are at once inbound and outbound destinations. Developed countries and developing countries have a presence on both sides of the bargain. Often the countries that buy are the same as the countries that sell. It is like that in the market for chocolates and children’s toys. It is like that in the market for cosmetic surgery as well. 6.1 THE COUNTRIES THAT BUY Chapters 3, 4 and 5 set out the stall. The foreign centre quotes a lower price and a shorter wait. Treatment abroad is of the same or a superior standard. A foreign clinic promises an unusual service or a unique specialist. Control, choice and autonomy all improve the patient’s well-being, self-perceived. Socially as well as individually, it is a plus-sum game. Ordinary people obtain dental implants...

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