Medical Tourism: Should You Travel For Your Healthcare?

Medical Tourism - travel for your healthcare needs

No matter what your position is in the healthcare debate, we can all agree on one thing: medical care in the United States is expensive. Even if you have good health insurance, you can find yourself paying a pretty penny for medical procedures. You’ll definitely feel a pain in your wallet if you need extensive dental work, or want to get cosmetic surgery! It’s no wonder that more and more Americans are turning to medical tourism.

Today, we’ll look at the reasons you might want to give medical tourism a try. We’ll also review some of the most popular procedures and destinations for medical tourists.

The Benefits of Medical Tourism

Save Money

Healthcare costs in many countries are far lower than in the United States! You can easily save 20% – 60% or more by getting medical treatments overseas.

Of course, you will have to factor in the cost of travel. You’ll need to pay for flights, hotels, and meals. If you’re bringing a companion to help you during your treatment, your costs for flights and meals will be doubled.

Many medical tourism experts recommend using the “$6,000 rule” to decide if you should seek treatment overseas. If your medical procedure would cost $6,000 or more to have done in the United States, you’ll likely save money if you travel for your healthcare. But if your procedure will cost less than $6,000 out of pocket, it’s probably not worth the travel costs to go outside the US.

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High Quality Care

Are you concerned that medical facilities overseas might not live up to US standards? You’d be surprised! You’ll find that many private hospitals and clinics that cater to medical tourists are up to date and even quite luxurious compared to many US hospitals.

You’ll also be able to have access to English-speaking doctors, many of whom trained in the US, United Kingdom, or Europe. Patients also report that nurses and other caregivers are kind and attentive.

Combine Treatment and Travel

Medical tourism gives you the opportunity to combine your treatment with a vacation! Especially if you have traveled for a procedure that doesn’t require a lot of recovery time, like dental work, you’ll be able to sightsee, shop, and enjoy yourself on your medical trip. Planning a trip for some serious surgery? You may still be able to arrive early to explore the city before you check in to the hospital. After your procedure, you can check in to a nice hotel to enjoy some pampering and relaxation before you fly home.

Save Face

Don’t want anyone to know you’re getting a facelift? Medical tourism to the rescue! All you have to tell your friends is that you’re taking a relaxing vacation. You’ll be able to spend your recovery time in a city where no one knows you. When you get back to the States, you can just smile and nod when everyone says how “rested” you look after your trip!

Popular Medical Tourism Procedures and Destinations

Name any medical specialty or procedure, and there are people traveling overseas for it. Medical tourists cross borders for treatment for problems as minor as cavities or as serious as cancer. No matter what kind of treatment you need, you will be able to find highly-recommended, accredited doctors and medical facilities.

It’s estimated that almost 1.5 million Americans travel to other countries for medical care every year. You might want to join them, especially if you need a treatment that isn’t covered fully by your medical insurance.

Dental Care

Consider Mexico for your dental care.Most US health insurance plans don’t cover dentistry. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a separate dental insurance policy from your employer, you’re likely to have high out-of-pocket costs if you need extensive dental work. It’s no wonder that dental care is the most popular reason for medical tourism!

Costa Rica and Mexico are among the top destinations for dental care. It’s estimated that 50,000 Americans travel to Mexico for dental care every year! Both Mexico and Costa Rica have the advantage of being near the United States, with lots of flights every day from US airports. Your travel costs in both countries will be relatively low, with reasonably priced hotels and restaurants readily available.

Cosmetic Surgery

Your medical insurance isn’t going to cover the elective plastic surgery. If you want a nose job, breast implants, a tummy tuck, facelift, or any other cosmetic surgery, you’ll have to pay for every penny of it yourself. With treatment costs that easily reach into the tens of thousands of dollars, you can save a lot of money by going abroad for your plastic surgery.

You can choose from clinics and hospitals all over the world that specialize in cosmetic surgery. But it’s Brazil that is considered to be the “plastic surgery capital of the world.” Out of all the cosmetic surgery procedures performed around the world each year, a full ten percent are done in Brazil!

Fertility Treatments

IVF and other fertility treatments are far less expensive overseas.If you’re struggling to conceive a child, you probably already know that fertility treatment can be incredibly expensive. Procedures like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) involve a lot of pricey medications, lab tests, and visits to the doctor’s office. To add to the stress of this emotional time, many health insurance plans don’t fully cover reproductive medicine. Some don’t cover it at all!

It’s worth considering medical tourism if you need fertility treatment. The average cost of one round of IVF is $12,000 in the US. Compare that to the treatment prices in India, where an IVF cycle can be had for under $3,000, including all drugs. If India is too far away, there are highly-rated fertility centers in Argentina and Colombia where an IVF cycle will cost you less than $5,000. Some of these clinics in South America even give a 50% refund if the cycle is unsuccessful.

Weight Management

Are you fighting the battle of the bulge? Medical tourism might be the answer to your problems. If you are thinking about bariatric surgery for weight loss, your insurance company may or may not cover it. You’d be able to save money on your surgery if you travel to a hospital abroad. Mexico is a top destination for US medical tourists who want weight loss surgery. Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are also noted for their high-quality care and low cost of bariatric surgery.

If you’ve been successful in your weight loss, whether through surgery or other means, you may find you have a new issue: loose skin. That plastic surgery you want to tighten up the skin on your new, smaller body is another reason to pull out your passport for more medical tourism.

Looking for a less extreme way to drop a few pounds and get fit? Try a vacation to a weight loss retreat overseas. No one likes going on a diet, but you’re sure to enjoy it more if you are at a spa retreat in Italy or on a fitness adventure in Senegal!

Practical Concerns for Medical Tourism

Do Your Research

We’ve only just scratched the surface in this article. You’ll want to do your homework before you book your tickets for a medical tourism trip!

There are many factors you should think about beyond just the price tag of your treatment. You’ll want to calculate the total price you expect to pay for your trip — not just doctor’s fees, hospital costs, and medications, but also airfares, hotels, meals, and entertainment. Even more important, make sure you choose a good doctor and medical facility! Look for hospitals and clinics that are accredited through an international organization like the Joint Commission International.  When choosing a doctor, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Does your doctor and his staff speak English fluently? Where did your doctor train? What kind of follow-up care can you expect?

Is this all too much to handle? Don’t worry. You can engage the services of a medical tourism facilitator, or a travel agent who specializes in arranging medical trips.

Passport and Visa Concerns for Medical Tourists

By now, you know that you’re going to need a valid passport for any trip outside the US. But don’t forget to check if you will need a visa for your healthcare trip!

Of the countries we’ve mentioned, both Brazil and India require visas for all US visitors, including medical tourists. Other popular destinations for medical tourists, like Mexico, don’t require any visas for US citizens. Make sure to check how long you can stay without a visa, though! Mexico will allow you to stay for up to 6 months with just your valid US passport. No worries if you need a long course of treatment there! But on the other hand, there are countries like Thailand. US citizens don’t need visas to enter Thailand, but only for a stay of up to 30 days. A longer stay requires a visa, or a visit to a local immigration office to request an extension of stay. That’s important to keep in mind if you are doing a lengthy treatment or if you need extra time to recover from surgery.

Have you ever traveled abroad for medical reasons? We’d love to hear about your experiences!


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