We often get readers asking us basic questions about medical tourism and wanted to share the answers to some of the most common questions we get asked. How do you know if this option will work for you? The following should help you decide.
Q: I have heard the term Medical Tourism, but what exactly is it?
A: Generally, Medical Tourism refers to going elsewhere other than your own city or state to receive medical care. For example, people in the U.S. have been going out of their home state to Mayo Clinic for years, and no one thinks twice about it. Canadians will come to the U.S. for procedures perhaps because they don’t want to deal with long waits in their own home country or maybe they have other personal reasons.
Today, there are dozens of countries like Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Guatemala, Singapore and the Philippines which offer excellent medical care delivery in ultra modern facilities for very affordable prices.
Q: Isn’t this scary having an operation in a foreign country?
The idea is frightening to many people, most likely because this topic is out of their comfort zone. Having surgery is stressful under the best of circumstances, and the thought of going outside the country can be over-the-top. Not everyone would choose this option, but for those who are self-insured, have limited coverage, or who do not want to put off a hip or knee replacement, for example, medical tourism can provide excellent care at prices that are reachable.
Q: What happens if something goes wrong, say my knee replacement doesn’t work properly?
A: This is an excellent question and often people stop pursuing the subject right here, assuming there is no assistance for them if something goes wrong. Shopping for a medical service provider overseas is to be taken seriously. Depending on which company is chosen and the package you purchase, rehabilitation, medication and follow up care is included in the price.
For those who are especially concerned about this, you can purchase adverse outcome insurance in the States before a procedure is done. The U.S. based company will pay out if a face lift or hip replacement goes awry.
Q: What about dental care do overseas clinics offer that as well?
A: Some countries excel in dental surgeries and mouth restoration. Even if you want routine work such as a root canal, bridge or crown, the money you save by having it done elsewhere can pay for your trip. If you have several dental implants done overseas, you can save a significant amount of money.
Q: OK, let’s talk about cost. Honestly is there that much difference considering that I need to fly there and stay in a hotel?
Absolutely! I have mentioned price savings a couple of times in my responses. It is no secret that the delivery of medical care in the States is beyond expensive and out of the reach of many, even with insurance deductibles. If you have a pre-existing heart condition or had cancer some years ago, many insurance companies will not cover you. In these cases treatment in the States can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not so overseas.
A heart valve replacement in the States can cost $170,000 but will run you $24,000 in Guatemala City
. Chemotherapy in the States runs about $75,000 but is under $20,000 in Guatemala City. A bone marrow transplant can cost up to $200,000 in the U.S., but will run up to $25,000 in India
. A spinal fusion runs between $80-100,000 in the United States but will cost you $6-10,000 overseas
Q: And what about follow up appointments and therapy?
A: Some of the above quoted pricing includes follow up appointments, therapy and general medications. You will need to research which company you use to see all of what is included in the personalized package you require.
Q: Do you know of anyone that actually has done this, say have a hip replaced or dental work done?
A: Because we have been traveling the world now for over 2 decades, we know quite a few people who have had dental care and serious medical treatment overseas. A tennis friend of ours had his hip replaced in Guadalajara, Mexico for $9,000 two years ago and now plays tennis 5 and 6 times a week. I have personally had root canals and crowns done in Thailand, Mexico and Guatemala.
If we get sick when we travel overseas or have an emergency, we want medical attention as soon as possible. We don’t consider going home for treatment. Lots of long term travelers feel the same way. Once you experience the quality of healthcare abroad and the personal treatment that is given to you “ and this includes house calls to your home or hotel room – you find that you’re in very good hands and can relax.
Q: You mentioned that you had an accident that required emergency attention. How did that work out?
Yes, I unexpectedly had my ring finger de-gloved in Antigua, Guatemala in the autumn of 2012. I received excellent emergency care, and then required a hand surgeon, hyperbaric chamber therapy and two surgeries. After 10 chamber treatments, 11 visits with the plastic surgeon and 2 surgeries, the cost was under $3,000USD. You can see my detailed cost list here
Q: And I understand that Billy had an issue that landed him in the hospital for a few days. What was that about and how did the costs compare?
Billy also had an emergency medical situation that required a midnight drive to the hospital from Panajachel, Guatemala to the capitol city. After 2 nights in the hospital, CT scans, x-rays, blood tests, medicines, translator fees and private doctor visits, the cost was $1,600USD. He also received excellent care.
Q: What about insurance? Will my North American insurance cover me?
A: It depends on your plan. Ours had a large deductible which was doubled for out of network providers so we simply paid out of pocket for these emergencies. However, some Stateside insurance plans are now offering an overseas medical tourism option as a way to save the provider money and they will cover the cost of travel and the medical procedure. Many hospitals overseas advertize that they accept insurance from your home country. So, you must take a look at your health coverage plan, and compare hospitals and medical tourism companies to see which works best for you.
Editor’s Note: Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website, RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.