Medical tourism, once an option for only the very wealthy, is gaining popularity as Americans find ways to get around the high costs of medical care. The term medical tourism generally refers to traveling internationally to receive healthcare services.
Major metropolitan areas in countries around the world offer healthcare of comparable quality, yet the prices may be much less than they are in America. In the United States, millions are uninsured or underinsured. Anyone who is facing significant out of pocket costs (generally, over $15,000) for surgery or a medical or dental procedure might benefit from medical tourism.
The Medical Tourism Association provides a central location for information to help those interested in traveling abroad to find high quality, affordable healthcare. Yet patients who are considering medical tourism, need to do their own research before making a decision. It is particularly important that patients understand their recourse in the case of unexpected results.
Their health insurance is unlikely to cover complications from the procedure and legal recourse becomes more complicated with issues that cross international borders. When considering medical tourism, patients often first ask about the safety of going oversees for medical care.
They want to know what the facilities will be like, if the doctors are qualified, and if the medical staff will take good care of them. Facilities that cater to international patients often meet the highest international standards and may even compete to offer the most amenities.
Generally, the procedures are as safe as they would be in the United States, as long as the patient has done their homework and chosen a reputable facility. Prices for healthcare and medical services vary from one country to the next. In general, costs can be 30 to 80 percent less than they are in the United States. For example a $50,000 heart valve replacement surgery in the United States could end up costing only $10,000 in India including the costs of travel and accommodations.
Although price and quality of care are the top motivations behind medical tourism, there are many factors that affect the choice of where to go for healthcare. Some medical procedures are only available in certain countries or are known to have a high success rate at a particular location. A patient may also choose one country over another because of relatives that live in the area, an ability to speak the language, or a dream of always visiting that country.
Once a hospital or medical facility is chosen, the staff will often have recommendations for travel plans and accommodations. The length of stay may change depending on your own personal recovery progress and additional travel insurance to cover a change in plans may be recommended. Patients should always prepare for possibly needing a longer stay, as leaving too soon after a procedure could lead to complications.
As technology and education improve, people are living more global lives. Medical tourism is another way that savvy individuals are taking advantage of the best opportunities the world has to offer.