Overseas Medical Care for a Fraction of the Price
What if you could go on a nice holiday and come home with a brand new hip? How about perfect teeth or no more wrinkles? Maybe even a new liver.
Increasingly, it's an option for many people in North America. Search for medical travel and tourism on the web and you'll find dozens of sites geared to match you and your procedure with an international health facility.
On some sites you can click on a body part and a list of available procedures will pop up. In other cases you can type in what you want done, and be directed to a list of international hospitals who can do the procedures. Or, for example, if you want to spend some time on the sunny beaches of Costa Rica, you can specify that as a destination and get a list of facilities in that country.
India is one of the most popular destinations, followed by Thailand, but there are also medical travel destinations in South America, the Philipines, South Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Ahead, we'll look at who is choosing international medical treatment and why, along with the pros and cons.
Who Chooses Medical Travel and Tourism?
When Medical Insurance just Doesn't Cover It
There are three main reasons for people to choose international medical care.
Some procedures cost a fraction of what they would cost in the United States or other First World countries and many of the procedures are not covered, or only partially covered by medical insurance. The savings, by the way can be as much as 90%, which means an operation that costs $200,000 in the States may only cost $20,000 in places like India. Often airfare and a vacation package is included in the price.
In countries where there is socialized medicine, like Canada and Great Britain, medical treatment is free. However, there are often long waiting lists for non life-threatening procedures like hip and knee replacement. Sometimes the decision is made when it becomes a matter of quality of life.
When Western medicine has given up all hope of a cure, patients often look abroad for new and alternative treatments. When a condition is terminal there may be nothing to lose but money.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Medical Tourism
A Personal Decision
The major benefit is the reduced cost and waiting times.
You'll be able to combine your treatment with a vacation.
Many of the international facilities are state of the art, with highly trained medical professionals.
Many of the destinations offer specialized treatments. They do thousands of procedures a year, so they are very experienced. For example, facilities in Brazil are known world wide for their expertise in cosmetic surgery.
There are plenty of examples of people who have had a very good experience and successful outcome at an international facility.
You may be facing a medical procedure without your friends and family close by.
You may have limited legal recourse if the procedure is not done properly.
You may feel uncomfortable having a procedure done in a country where much of the population lives in substandard conditions and have little to no access to medical care.
You may have limited follow up care, or you may have to stay longer than you had planned for follow up care. You may suffer complications from traveling too soon after surgery.
There are plenty of examples of people who have wasted a lot of money and valuable time that could have been spent with their family in search of a cure that doesn't exist.
Leave it to the Professionals
If you are considering traveling abroad for medical treatment get in touch with a medical travel provider.
Don't be afraid to shop around.
Provide a dedicated health care professional to work with you prior to your travel and to do follow up on your return.
Ensure they have all of your medical records.
Arrange all of your travel and accommodations.
Have someone in the country you are traveling to who can answer questions and deal with problems that may arise.
Deal with all the paperwork, including arranging a medical visa if required.
Offer recommendations of appropriate facilities.
Provide a written estimate of the cost.
You should also do your own independent research. The more you know about the staff and facility, the more comfortable you will be when you reach your decision.
Is Medical Travel and Tourism Right for You?
It's one of those questions you hope you never have to ask yourself.
More than 750,000 Americans travel outside the county for medical treatment each year.
More than fifty countries offer specialized medical procedures.
Learn all that you can and you'll come up with an answer that's right for you.
There is lots of great information on medical travel and tourism, including books you can buy or download on to your Kindle.