What You Need to Know About Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism

Medical Tourism: What You Need to Know

Learn about traveling to another country to have a medical procedure done.

You need a medical procedure but can’t afford it. You learn that you can have this procedure done for a fraction of the cost in another country. Better yet, you can have it done at a beautiful resort in a tropical destination. But before you buy your plane ticket, there are some things you need to know about medical tourism.

What is medical tourism?

When someone travels to another country to have a medical procedure done it’s called medical tourism. In 2006, about half a million people went to foreign countries for health procedures. Cost of surgeries and treatments may be much less – 20 percent to 80 percent less in some cases – in other countries than in the U.S. People may choose medical tourism if:

  • They do not have medical insurance
  • Their medical insurance won’t cover the procedure
  • The procedure is not offered in the U.S.
  • There is a long wait time to have surgery      

There are many medical tourism companies. Some companies sell travel packages so your health procedure can be part of a vacation. Some health insurance companies offer specialized insurance policies that pay for health care overseas.

Common medical tourism procedures include:

  • Heart surgery
  • Knee replacements
  • Plastic surgery
  • Infertility treatments
  • Dental surgery

Some popular destinations for medical tourism include:

  • Thailand
  • India
  • Singapore
  • Mexico

Is medical tourism right for me? Six questions to ask

Below are some important points to consider before deciding if medical tourism is right for you:

  1. Is the hospital safe? The American Medical Association recommends only going to hospitals that have been accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI). JCI is part of the same organization that accredits hospitals in the U.S.
  2. What do I need to know about the country I am traveling to? There are many infectious diseases in some countries that are not found in the U.S. These include tuberculosis and hepatitis A. After having surgery or a treatment done, your immune system becomes compromised. That means it’s easier for you to catch diseases. Check with your doctor at home to find out if you need any vaccinations before your trip or if you should avoid certain countries.
  3. What if there is a problem? Medical laws are different in each country. If you are injured by a doctor in another country, laws may make it hard for you to take legal action.
  4. Is it safe to fly right after having surgery? Long flights could raise your risk of health problems, such as blood clots. Ask your doctor what you should expect during recovery and when it is safe for you to travel home.
  5. What happens if I have complications when I get home? The AMA recommends that you should arrange for follow-up care – and financing for it – when you plan your trip. If not, you could have a very hard time finding a doctor to treat any complications that might arise. And it could wind up costing more than the original procedure.
  6. What else do I need to know? Your doctor at home may be able to help you decide if medical tourism is right for you.  
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