As borders open and tourism picks up, it’s not just tourists who are starting to travel again. Every year, thousands of American travelers who have been disappointed with their own broken health care system travel overseas in search of affordable medical care.
Medical tourism was a growing industry before the COVID hit, with around 780,000 people traveling for elective and necessary medical procedures in 2019. While the number was understandably low in 2020, medical tourism is picking up in 2021, and it is predicted that around 650,000 people will travel for medical care in 2021.
The key to getting the most out of medical tourism is balancing affordable costs – the bottom line is to to avoid medical debt – and quality care. The countries on this list are popular destinations for American medical tourists thanks to a reputation for well-trained professionals and costs up to 80% lower than they would typically be for the same procedures in the United States.
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Our neighbor to the south is a top destination for American medical tourists, especially those looking for affordable dental care. Dental implants, for example, tend to cost between $ 3,000 and $ 4,500 each in the United States, while the same implants cost over 60% less across the border.
Dentists in Mexico are highly qualified, either at home or at American dental schools, and clinics follow many of the same standards found in the United States. very dedicated to the industry.
Located in Southeast Asia, Malaysia welcomes around 4.9 million medical tourists each year. Malaysia has a world-class medical care system, with advanced facilities and advanced technology.
Many tourists travel to Malaysia for major procedures, including heart surgeries and hip replacements, which can cost less than a quarter of what similar procedures would cost in the United States. it is a beautiful place to recover.
Thailand is known as a place with a very affordable cost of living, and it is a popular destination for expats and digital nomads for this reason. But medical tourists are also drawn to the affordability of Thailand, where many procedures cost thousands less than what you would pay in the United States.
Plus, the low cost of living means that sitting there while you recover won’t drain your credit cards, either. But while health care in Thailand is affordable, Thailand does not neglect the quality of care. It owns several world famous hospitals and is known for its advanced medical technology.
Medical tourism is a billion dollar industry in India, but it’s not all about facelifts and Botox. India is a very popular destination for affordable non-elective surgery, including cancer care, heart transplants and bypass surgery.
Procedure costs can be as low as 10% the cost of comparable American surgeries – without sacrificing quality. India is home to dozens of internationally renowned hospitals and Indian surgeons are often trained abroad at some of the best medical schools in the world before returning home to practice.
Know the risks
Any medical procedure carries its own risks, no matter where it is performed. But traveling abroad can add additional layers of potential risk, or at least complications. Language and cultural differences, for example, can make even a regular tourist visit more difficult, let alone a medical procedure.
You should also consider the risks associated with the trip. Many countries will require some type of visa, especially if you are to stay for several months. Make sure that you will be eligible for the appropriate travel visa before booking or paying for any medical procedure abroad.
Then there are the potential legal issues. Since you are not in the United States, our laws will not apply. So, if something goes wrong to the point that you could have a serious malpractice case in the United States, you could be completely without legal recourse in another country.
There are also potential privacy issues to consider. The United States has its privacy concerns, but what can – and cannot – be shared about your medical history is pretty well protected. The same may not be true in other countries. You may also have trouble getting your own records when you need them.
Consider all costs
While it’s easy to save money on the procedure itself, it won’t be your only cost when traveling abroad for medical purposes.
On the one hand, you really have to get there. Travel costs can be quite high depending on the distance traveled; expect to pay at least $ 1,000 or more for the plane ticket alone when traveling to Asia from the US (pro tip: get an airline credit card and use points or miles to cover the cost of your flight.)
And then there is the recovery time. For some procedures, you will not get medical clearance to fly for several weeks after your surgery, which can lead to significant additional costs for a long hospital or hotel stay.
Even with the added costs, traveling for medical care can be a great way to save a lot of money compared to paying inflated US costs. And if you do your homework, you won’t have to sacrifice quality of care.