Traveling for Treatment: Weighing the Risks of Medical Tourism
Suppose you need surgery and cannot afford it. Or maybe you want to try an experimental treatment that is not available in the United States. You could be seeking cosmetic surgery, but find that the costs are too high. What are your options?A growing number of people in the United States are seeking medical treatment in unlikely places—overseas hospitals. Traveling internationally for medical care is often referred to as medical tourism. But, it may not be as carefree as your average vacation. If your vacation destination is a hospital rather than a hotel, you have a lot more to consider than your fellow vacationers do.
Treatments Sought Abroad
Seeking overseas treatment may seem far-fetched, but it is more common than you might think. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 750,000 United States residents travel abroad for care each year. The most common treatments people will travel for include:
- Dental procedures
- Cosmetic surgery
- Heart surgery
Why Travel for Treatment?
Cost is one of the most common reasons for traveling abroad for medical care. This is especially true for cosmetic surgeries, which are not usually covered by health insurance. Even for a surgery that is covered by medical insurance, the overall costs of travel and surgery for places like Thailand or India may be less than you would pay at home.The cost savings is tempting for individuals, but some health insurance companies are even getting in on the savings by offering benefits for individuals who are willing to travel overseas for treatment. Saving with your insurance company could even apply to domestic medical tourism (getting treatment at another hospital within the United States). Some employers have found that they can reduce their insurance costs by up to 40% by offering employees financial incentives to seek care at less expensive hospitals. But there’s a lot more to healthcare than cost. You want to be treated by qualified doctors in clean, sanitary conditions. You want to be sure that you are getting the best care possible. So if you are thinking of traveling overseas for a surgery or another procedure, you should carefully weigh the risks against the potential cost savings.