Should Americans Be Considering Medical Tourism?
Political/News

Should Americans Be Considering Medical Tourism?

Large numbers of Americans have embraced medical tourism. With the extremely high cost of paying for medical procedures out of pocket, many patients find that medical tourism provides the only means of receiving the desired treatments. Though travel costs add thousands to the total cost of a procedure, in many cases, the savings easily offset the travel bill and still provide substantial savings, which has many Americans grabbing their passports and going on vacation while also receiving discount medical care.

According to Medical Tourism.com, 1.25 million Americans traveled abroad for medical treatment in 2014. The most popular destinations include Latin America, India, Singapore, Thailand, and South Africa. The majority of overseas procedures selected by Americans include cosmetic procedures, such as plastic surgery, that are not covered by insurance. Dental procedures, which are often either not covered by insurance or only covered at a very low rate, are also popular with American medical tourists.

Latin America has been extremely popular with U.S. medical tourists because the cost of traveling there from the U.S. remains so much lower than far-flung destinations like South Africa or Singapore. American medical tourists are particularly interested in dental procedures in countries like Costa Rica or Brazil. Latin America also provides many options for plastic surgery and other cosmetic procedures for less than 50 percent of the cost in the USA. With no insurance covering these procedures, many Americans must choose between having them done abroad or simply not completing the procedure.

American medical tourists travel abroad for much more expensive and medically serious treatments as well. Foreign hospitals provide Americans with knee replacements, hip replacements, cardiac procedures, including heart bypass treatments, and other life-saving surgeries. Though the cost savings may be enormous, many Americans fear to go abroad for medical treatments. They are unfamiliar with the healthcare systems in foreign nations and fear the standard of care may be below what they receive in America.

High-quality care can be obtained for low cost in many countries 

Provided Americans choose to have procedures done in one of the hospitals recognized for high quality in places like Latin America, India, Singapore, or Thailand, they have no reason to fear inferior quality. Many of the doctors in these hospitals completed their training in the United States. Others completed medical degrees in the best schools of Europe.

Standards at these hospitals equal U.S. and European standards. The hospitals are recently renovated and stocked with state-of-the-art equipment. Medical tourists enjoy the latest technology and procedures at high standards for less than half the cost in America. Because of this, Americans facing procedures with steep out-of-pocket costs should consider medical tourism.

What are the costs for common procedures overseas? 

Facelifts are a popular procedure for medical tourists. While costs in the USA average $12,000, facelifts range between $3,000 and $4,000 overseas. With savings of $8,000 to $9,000, it’s easy to see why so many Americans opt for facelifts overseas. Considering that the quality is the same, the difference comes down to the travel costs and time involved.

Hip replacement surgery costs between $40,000 and $65,000 in the United States, a cost-prohibitive sum. A similar hip replacement surgery costs $8,000 to $18,000 overseas, including travel costs. Hip replacements are crucial to the continued quality of life and survival. Where to get this procedure done in the U.S. becomes cost prohibitive because of a lack of insurance coverage, having it done abroad should be undertaken if at all possible.

Costs vary greatly by the destination country. India offers services costing between 0.25 and 0.1 percent of the cost in the U.S. Thailand runs approximately 20 percent higher than India, while South African prices run between 50 and 100 percent higher than India.

How do you find overseas medical services? 

Researching overseas medical care is very important. Just like in the U.S., you want to select a doctor and hospital with experience in your specific area of need. It is also important to know the reputation of the doctor and the hospital.

To find hospitals, research facilities certified by Joint Commission International, which is affiliated with the U.S. hospital certification authority. Also, check for hospitals that have joint affiliations with well-regarded US hospitals. For example, John Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic have many international affiliates. Websites such as Medical Tourism.com provide research tools. Finally, contacting an agent specializing in medical tourism provides invaluable information and links to high-quality providers.

Saving money on prescriptions

Individuals who lack affordable copays through prescription drug insurance coverage need a pharmacy discount plan. For example, the Singlecare healthcare discount card provides savings of up to 80 percent off the retail price. These savings make affording medications possible for those facing high out-of-pocket costs. The card is accepted across the country by over 35,000 pharmacies, including all CVS, Walgreens, and WalMart locations.

In addition, Singlecare offers coupons that provide members with additional savings, which drastically reduces the cost of many prescription drugs, such as the Triluma price. The out-of-pocket costs of many prescriptions are unaffordable without a discount plan. By signing up with Singlecare, the cost of prescriptions are within reach.

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