Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Need Surgery, Travel Abroad
Medical Tourism has been a growing phenomena since the cost of health care is increasing by double digits each year in the United States. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that up to 750,000 U.S. patients have traveled to other Countries for surgery. Patients in other countries like Canada and the U.K. travel even more for surgery and medical care. Some health insurance companies will even pay you to travel because they reap the value of lower cost procedures for the insured. How much value? A patient who needs a spinal fusion would pay $90,000 in the U.S. compared to just $7,000 in Thailand.
Medical centers in Thailand, India, Singapore, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, Mexico, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic and Hungary are popular worldwide destinations. Need a new dental bridge? It would cost you $5,500 in the U.S. but only $500 in India. A full facelift can be obtained in South Africa for $1,200 compared to $20,000 here.
Many of the surgeons in these centers were trained in the United States (Harvard, Johns Hopkins) and the Medical Centers are spa-like. The hospitals are accredited by a relative of the Joint Commission, the accrediting agency in the U.S. The price may also cover travel and hotel expenses for the patient and a companion. Medical Tourism or Global Health Care has been called "first- world health care at emerging-market prices".
The American College of Surgeons has acknowledged the changing landscape that Surgical Tourism brings. The ACS has issued a statement that offers tips for patients to consider before booking international surgery. The three main concerns are the possibility that the "informed consent" is not up to par with the U.S., the communication with the health care team may not be like the U.S. and the devices used and the procedures may not be up to U.S. standards.
Cover those bases and the gastric bypass for $6,000 in Costa Rica might look more attractive than paying $28,000 in the U.S. With the out of pocket expense for patients who have insurance, these prices can look attractive. For the 46 million U.S. citizens that are uninsured, a vacation coupled with a hip replacement (USA-$43K, Thailand-$10K) might be appealing.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 6:25 AM