You need to undergo a medical procedure, pronto. So you look around for the best, and most affordable, hospitals in your area. You even check out the ones across the country. Unfortunately, none of them fit your requirements — especially your budgetary ones.
With rising healthcare costs, what’s the average American citizen to do? One option is to become a medical tourist — that is, you fly to other countries and have your medical procedure performed there instead of in the United States. While this may seem like more trouble than it’s worth, it does have a number of benefits, and not just for the country receiving medical tourists. There are also benefits for you.
Generally, healthcare services abroad cost only a fraction of their domestic counterparts. In India, for instance, you can get a heart bypass surgery for $5000— which is a steal, considering that similar procedures in the US can cost $150,000 or more. The fact that medical debt has become the number one reason why people file for bankruptcy in this country is troubling.
You could argue that lower prices translate to lower quality services. Actually, many overseas healthcare providers — such as India’s Apollo Hospitals — are accredited by the Joint Commission International. So before you check into any hospital abroad, make sure they’re accredited first.
It’s More Efficient
Let’s face it. The US health insurance system is ridiculously complex. To take full advantage of it, you need to know the subtle difference between terms like “deductible,” “co-payment,” and “co-insurance.” Otherwise, you’ll still have to shoulder a significant portion of your healthcare costs, which defeats the purpose of having insurance in the first place.
Fortunately, overseas hospitals don’t require you to have insurance. Since they want foreign patients to have an incentive to stay with them, they’re not likely to put too many barriers between you and the medical procedure you need. That’s why checking into those hospitals is a lot like checking into a hotel. You ask, stay, pay and leave. It’s that simple.
The Services Are At, or Above, Par
If you’re used to two-hour waits in US hospitals, wait until you visit countries like Thailand. In Bangkok’s Bumrungrad hospital, every floor has its own outpatient clinic and pharmacy, so waiting times can be as short as 15 minutes. Not bad for a country located halfway across the world!
It’s Still Covered by (Some) Insurance Companies
Many insurance companies are reluctant to offer services for medical tourists. After all, if a policyholder has a botched nose job abroad and wants to claim compensation here in America, that leads to a ton of messy legal problems.
Still, it’s worth looking for the companies that do offer the aforementioned services. Since medical tourism cut down annual health-related expenses by as much as $20 billion, many insurance providers decided to create products specifically for medical tourists. You can find some of them on the official website of the International Medical Travel Journal.
It’s a Great Opportunity to Travel
When you’re about to undergo a grueling operation, sightseeing might be the last thing on your mind. Still, you’ll want to make time for it.
For example, if you’re going to South Korea, a.k.a. the “plastic surgery mecca” of the world, you can drop by Jeju Island or Seoraksan National Park. If you’re going to Bangkok, you might as well check out the city’s famous temples and golden Buddhas. Or if you’re getting treated on a coastal region, hit the beach while waiting for those painkillers to wear off. No matter what country you’re in, you’ll appreciate these beautiful tourist spots, especially after spending days in a sickbed.
To be fair, there are drawbacks to being a medical tourist. If your overseas healthcare provider doesn’t live up to your expectations, you’ll have little recourse other than to fly back and have the operation re-done. And that’s assuming the healthcare provider in question will allow it.
But then, domestic healthcare has its risks, too. Pricey procedures aside, they also have to live up to your requirements. You can easily sue them if things go wrong, but lawyers aren’t exactly cheap either. Also be sure to start an emergency fund for medical emergencies if you haven’t already.
So regardless of the healthcare provider you use, always do your homework on them. Whether they’re located halfway across the country, or halfway across the globe, remember that they’re worth looking into, for your health’s sake.
Photo Credit: wattallan594