Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Singapore and Costa Rica are among the most attractive destinations in the world for medical tourism in 2014, according to a global index published last week by the Medical Tourism Association.
The survey was conducted among 5,000 Americans by the International Healthcare Research Center (IHRC).
According to the Medical Tourism Index (MTI), medical travel to Italy, South Korea, Spain, Colombia and Dubai is also gaining appeal.
The MTI measures the attractiveness of a country for medical travel along three key dimensions and 34 underlying criteria.
Canada topped the lists for "country environment" and "medical tourism costs," Costa Rica for "destination attractiveness," and Israel for "medical facility and service."
According to Renée-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association, the MTI "makes a significant contribution so far as providing unbiased information about medical tourism across the globe.
"This information provides not only what patients need to know when planning a medical journey overseas, but serves as a valuable tool for governments, employers and insurance companies, hospitals and doctors, facilitators and related travel and hospitality industries throughout the world."
The 2014 MTI considered 30 countries – about 60% of the world's population – from Africa, Asia, Central America, Middle East, South America and North America.
The Medical Tourism Association is an international nonprofit trade organization for the medical tourism and healthcare industry made up of top international hospitals, healthcare providers, medical travel facilitators, insurance companies, and other affiliates, which is says are committed to promoting the highest level of quality healthcare to patients in a global environment.
Israel's Finance Ministry decided recently to impose taxes on medical tourism. According to the proposal, a tax of 15% will be imposed on medical tourists, in addition to an 18% value-added tax on medical tourism services.
According to estimates, Israel's medical tourism industry generates more than NIS 1 billion (about $250 million) a year in income and attracts some 60,000 tourists to the country, including patients and their family members or escorts.
Tourism Minister Uzi Landau has slammed the Treasury's plan to impose taxes on medical tourism, saying that the move "will cause irreversible damage to the tourism industry and to Israel's image in the world."
According to the minister, the main victims of the taxation will be Israeli patients and small and medium-sized businesses, as the income from medical tourism allows hospitals to purchase modern equipment and allows the Treasury to allot resources to improve the service to Israel's citizens.
Landau defined medical tourism as a goose laying golden eggs and said that imposing taxes on the industry would be like killing that goose.
"There is no logic in imposing a series of decrees on a field which contributed, first and foremost, to Israeli patients, to small and medium-sized businesses, to the state's coffer and to its image," he said.
"This decision will not only fail to put money in the state coffer, but will also lead to the loss of more than one billion shekels a year in income."