In the last decade, medical tourism has grown exponentially as thousands travel to other countries for medical procedures. In 2008 alone, statistics show that over 200,000 United States’ citizens traveled abroad for healthcare, especially for elective surgeries and plastic surgeries.
Why are individuals doing this on such a broad scale?
As insurance rates rise and people find it harder to get the treatments they need within the U.S. healthcare program, this segment of tourism is expected to increase rapidly over the next few years.
So, why would a person want or need to go abroad for medical procedures? There are several reasons that come to mind immediately.
- Many procedures are less expensive abroad. Less expensive does not imply inferior quality treatment. Costs may be tied to salaries, costs of insurance, or even government subsidies, making medical costs naturally less expensive in these countries.
- The quality of healthcare facilities abroad has improved a lot in recent years. Numerous countries have built state-of-the-art medical facilities specifically with medical tourism in mind. Many of their doctors have specialized training in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
- Going abroad may be the only way to get certain treatments. Some medical providers in other countries utilize treatments that, although medically sound, have not been approved yet for widespread use in the U.S.
- You can tie your health care needs to a well deserved vacation. Medical travel facilitators like Patients Without Borders, MedRetreat and Medical Nomad provide complete medical and travel packages for their clients.
What do you need to know before considering expatriate medical treatment?
- What countries have a program for the medical need you have? Most countries, although they can do many procedures, specialize in specific ones for the medical tourist.
- Are the doctors and hospitals accredited by an international accreditation program such is offered by the Joint Commission International (JCI)? The organization has a multi-step accreditation process with well over 200 facilities outside of the U.S. having already received their accreditation.
- Is the doctor or hospital associated with a prestigious American hospital like Johns Hopkins Medicine International? An example of this would be Panama City, Panama’s Punta Pacifica Hospital.
- Does your insurance cover any of the treatments? Although most overseas procedures are not covered by U.S insurance, there are a few like Companion Global Healthcare, that work with a network of JCI-accredited hospitals in several different countries. The customers of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, for example, participate in this program. Remember, Medicare can not be used outside of the U.S. and its territories.
- You need to know how long recovery will be for your procedure. You do not want to overstay your visa time limits, and you will need a place to stay during recuperation.
If you do your research carefully before you go, you will most likely find that the medical procedures abroad will be less expensive and will fulfill your medical needs as professionally as any doctor or hospital in the United States.