Health care in the U.S. is so expensive compared to other countries that it may be cheaper to take a mini-vacation and enjoy cheaper rates abroad, without sacrificing quality of service or the end results.
A woman who publishes on Facebook as “Dear Alyne” chronicled her experience getting a tooth fixed. Instead of paying her regular dentist $1500 dollars, Alyne looked at alternatives elsewhere. What she found may shock – and delight – you.
Alyne discovered that she could get the exact same dental procedure in Mexico for a fraction of the U.S. price: $120! Airfare to Mexico costs $200 and a night at a nice hotel came in at $100. Adding in extra expenses like meals and souvenirs still brings the total amount of cash needed for this medical help to about half of the price at home.
This year 15 million people took advantage of lower rates in foreign countries by becoming medical tourists.
Alyne also spoke with a man who flew from London, England, to Poland in order to get four teeth repaired. He saved 75% by going on vacation.
Another woman got Lasik eye correction surgery in South Korea for $1200. Compare that to the domestic price of $4000.
If you are considering health care outside the United States, it is essential to do your homework.
Although foreign doctors are just as good as those in the U.S., check their credentials and patient satisfaction ratings before finalizing your plans.
Alyne got a $120 root canal done in Egypt and got to visit the pyramids and shop in the bazaars. When she got home, her regular dentist rated the work 10/10: perfect! He said he would have charged her (are you ready for this?) $1200 – 1/10th the fee.
A liver transplant that costs $300,000 in the U.S. lists for about $91,000 in Taiwan. Chinese tourists have been visiting their neighboring doctors since travel restrictions were lifted in 2008.
Some people venture outside their own country to have medical procedures that are either unavailable or illegal in their home country.
All kinds of health-related treatments are available in other countries, including alternative medicine, psychiatry, convalescent care, and burial services.
Medical tourism is not new. Wikipedia tells us:
“The first recorded instance of people travelling for medical treatment dates back thousands of years to when Greek pilgrims traveled from the eastern Mediterranean to a small area in the Saronic Gulf called Epidauria. This territory was the sanctuary of the healing god Asklepios.”
More recently, since the 1700’s, spa towns and places with healing hot springs have been popular destinations for afflicted patients.
Even when a medical surgery is well-priced at home, there may be quite a long waiting list to see a practitioner. With airfare and hotels priced low, many people are choosing to go after quality care sooner rather than later.
Not having health insurance is another obstacle to getting needed health care in the U.S. William Keval from Illinois was facing a $50,000 estimate for hip replacement surgery. The 59-year-old father of two saved oodles of money by going to Latvia where the same surgery came in at $7600.
While he was at it, Keval decided to get some cosmetic surgery, too. He had excess skin and fat under his eyelids removed, along with a face- and neck-lift. Six days post-operatively and one day after his stitches were removed, Keval reported, “Am I happy with the results? Absolutely. The doctor is a true artist.”
Although Latvia competes with popular destinations like Thailand and South Korea, the mayor of Riga, Nils Usakovs, saw the financial potential of attracting foreign patients when he said eight years ago:
“More than 200 million people live within a two-hour flight of us, and all of them are potential customers.”
World governments know that medical tourists bring good money to their countries. Many nations allocate hefty budgets to advertise their health services. And why not share some of that multi-billion dollar industry action?
An article in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics revealed that “private hospitals in India are seeing an influx of patients from Bangladesh and the Gulf.” In addition, Canadians and British patients go to India to avoid long waits for treatment.
Countries like India appeal to other English speakers because medical facilities there are very high in quality and the costs are bargain-basement low. “Today Indian hospitals are well equipped with the latest technology and houses highly qualified and experienced staff who can provide timely and quality medical treatment to patients,” says a report by Dr. Anupama Sharma, an Assistant Professor in New Delhi.
It’s no surprise that Americans cross the border into our southern neighbor Mexico for all kinds of health care. San Francisco, California resident Alexis Monson saved money in October 2017 when she saw a dermatologist, gynecologist, and dentist during a three-day trip to Mexico City. The self-employed Monson had to cancel her U.S. Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance because it was too expensive.
Ms. Monson was especially happy that the Mexican doctors’ offices quoted their rates before she left her home country so she faced no unexpected extra expenses.
The Medical Tourism Association reported that, as of 2015, “about 65 percent of those traveling for medical procedures were not covered by insurance.”
Mexican doctors offer low-cost bariatric surgeries, dental work, stem cell treatments, and fertility treatments – all at about 60 percent less the cost than here in the U.S.
Erika Lee from Los Angeles, California is a believer in Mexican dental care. She schedules cleanings twice a year in Tijuana, just over the border. The 27-year-old American said, “Even with dental insurance, you end up paying so much for anything beyond cleanings. For me, especially being in Los Angeles, there’s no reason not to go there when there are well-established practices that are more cost-effective.”
Lee shopped around for a dental crown and got the job done in Tijuana for a mere $175. With health insurance, a crown costs three or four times as much. Without coverage, plan on spending over $1000.
When looking for a low-cost medical treatment, do some comparison shopping – and don’t make your selection based only on the price. Get word-of-mouth referrals from friends and neighbors. Make sure the doctor will guarantee the work.
Once you are satisfied that travel outside the U.S. to get medical help will actually save time and money, go ahead and book that mini-vacation. Enjoy the sights and return a better person – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
After all, they say a change is as good as a rest. Why not vote with your wallet for affordable health care?