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The Road to Health July 19, 2012

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments
medical tourism, global health, travel, medical procedures abroad, healthcare

Medical tourism. How far down the road will you travel to surgeon-shop?

The state of US healthcare looms near-crisis and unemployment levels remain steadily high. Over 16% of US citizens are without health insurance, and the rate is climbing. This combination will spur over 1.6 million Americans to seek affordable medical treatment abroad this year.

Granted, many of the procedures are elective: dental veneers, liposuction or breast augmentation. But some necessary treatments are plainly a better deal in other countries. A hip replacement will cost $43,000 in the US, but only $9,000 in India. The physicians are usually US or UK board certified, so quality of care is not necessarily compromised.

Medical tourism has grown so quickly that 50 countries now recognize it as a major national industry.  There’s a Medical Tourism Association & Global Healthcare Congress, medical travel companies, and guided tours for travel companions.

And even if you’re not signing up for heart bypass surgery which is likely to cost $144,000 in the states, $25,000 in Costa Rica and only $8,500 in India, you may just pick up a few packs of antibiotics without prescription the next time you’re vacationing in Mexico.

Here’s a breakdown of treatments by country provided by mint.com:

Cardiology: India, where over 20,000 heart procedures are performed with a 98% success rate; South Africa

Cancer: Singapore Johns Hopkins at 40% discount.

Cosmetic Surgery: Brazil-for you or your pet!; South Africa where a “Surgeon + Safari” is popular.

Dentistry: Costa Rica, at a discounted rate of 70%; Mexico, which hosts 50,000 Americans each year.

Fertility/IVF: Barbados and Israel offer 50% savings.

Everything: Thailand accepts 400,000 patients each year for all the above plus transgender operations.

Don’t feel beholden to the US practices to provide optimum care. If you happen to be traveling anyway or want to combine a health treatment into your travels, it’s easy to do. A successful global free market will be created where competitive industries win. And contrary to popular thought, most people do not just travel for a better deal, but in search of the most advanced medical technologies, to receive better care, and quicker access to care, according to a McKinsey consultancy firm survey. Do a bit of preliminary homework and be wary of malpractice laws.

Further reading:

Patients Beyond Borders

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