Medical Tourism in a Socialized Health Care System—The Need for Strict Systemic Supervision

Zvi H. Perry, Liat Apel-Sarid, Liat Salzer, Asaf Toker


Medical tourism is defined by the active act of traveling from a patient’s country of origin to a different country, specifically to receive medical treatment. Globalization has made a tremendous change in the field of medical tourism. Medical tourism statistics revealed an anticipated growth of the industry from about $40 billion in 2004 to $100 billion by 2012, as estimated by the McKinsey Company (Shetty, 2010). The size of the global medical tourism market increased about 2.5 times from 2004 to 2012 by approximately USD 10 billion, and it is expected to reach approximately USD 33 billion by 2019 (Seo & Park, 2018). Israel has emerged as a medical tourism destination due to the advantages it can offer. Israel’s facilities are recognized throughout the world, and provide high quality of care at reasonable prices. But, Israel has a socialized health care system. This means that the national health insurance program is financed mainly by the government from public sources, such as health insurance tax that is collected by the general payroll and other general tax revenues, but also directly from the public through out-of-pocket money and private complementary health insurances. In comparison to OECD countries, Israel’s hospitals are characterized by a very low bed to population ratio, an extremely low average length of stay, a high rate of admissions per 1000 population, and a high occupancy rate, which means this is already a very “lean” and effective system, that is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of funding. In relation to this medical tourism raises a lot of ethical, moral and economic issues for the Israeli health system. In the current article we try to shed some light upon these problems and suggest feasible solutions for them.

We suggest that countries should adopt an ethical code and health policy, which will be used by local hospitals to maintain the delicate balance between medical services to the local population and medical tourism.

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