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How to Reduce Health Care Costs? Travel!

How to Reduce Health Care Costs? Travel!

It’s no secret that medical care in the U.S. is expensive. The discrepancy between expenses in the U.S. and elsewhere is leading increasing numbers of Americans to travel overseas for better-priced medical procedures.

A nose job in Brazil, for example, can cost about 60 percent less than in the U.S. Similar savings can be expected for a spinal fusion in Turkey. Heart bypass surgery in India can be 90 percent less expensive.

Even factoring in the cost of travel, the savings can be substantial. And you’re getting a pre-op vacation thrown in as well.

Of course, fear and uncertainty combine to put a brake on a widespread turn to medical tourism. Americans trust American hospitals. Hospitals in other countries, not so much.

But choosing a hospital a continent away need not be a shot in the dark. According to Patients Without Borders, a publisher of medical tourism guidebooks, there are almost 500 hospitals outside the U.S. that have been accredited by the Joint Commission International, which holds medical facilities to strict international standards.

A recent Bloomberg article reports that around 7 million people travel abroad every year for various medical procedures, making medical tourism worth as much as $40 billion annually. The top destinations outside the U.S.:

1. Thailand
2. Mexico
3. Singapore
4. India
5. Brazil
6. Turkey
7. Taiwan

American medicine is not without its proponents. Despite high prices, around 800,000 foreigners traveled to the U.S. for medical reasons, making it the third-most visited country for medical tourism.

Reader Reality Check

Would you travel abroad to save money on a medical procedure?

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  • Arun Baheti

    Interestingly, even American insurance carriers and self-insured companies have been known to offer patients a trip abroad for expensive procedures. Even with travel costs for patient+spouse, they can end up saving money.

  • daerazo

    I had to get a small hand surgery 5 years ago. The price here in the US was around $3750 after insurance. I am from Honduras and I called my family there to research for a good specialist. When they told me that the price there was $23 I was surprised. I booked a flight for $680. My total travel and medical expense was a little over $850, but never hit the $1000 plus I was able to visit relatives while in that country. Now, I just came from the dentist and I have to get 2 wisdom teeth out. I just checked with a good friend of mine that is an oral surgeon and he told me will cost me $96 for each one of them. Thinking in traveling back to Honduras to visit family again and take advantage of that.