According to a recent post by Insider, a Seattle photographer was recently traveling abroad in Italy when she cracked a tooth on an especially hard nut. While it needed immediate medical attention, she was worried about what the bill would be with a foreign medical procedure. After a few hours of treatment, rather than spending $1,000 as she would have in the U.S., the total cost was around $17.
Not all people receiving medical care while abroad stumble across it as this Seattle Photographer did. It’s quite common nowadays to travel abroad for medical treatment. In fact, it’s so popular that it’s been given the term, Medical Tourism. Here is a brief guide on medical tourism, why you may want to consider it for your next medical procedure, and what you should consider while preparing for long term travel abroad.
The Benefits of Traveling Abroad for Medical Procedures
The American Healthcare system is notorious for being expensive. And it doesn’t help that many Americans can’t even afford health insurance as it is. Considering that, its no surprise that many people are choosing to travel abroad for medical procedures. Many people have found that traveling abroad for medical procedures results in a significantly lower bill. There are even a few insurance companies that offer incentives for medical tourism due to the dramatic cut in costs. Whether it’s for something as simple as aesthetic procedures and injections or a large scale medical surgery, you can often find a much more affordable and equally high-quality medical option abroad.
The cost of surgery in other countries is dramatically different from the cost of the same surgeries in America. Especially for people that are looking to get cosmetic surgery, that wouldn’t be covered by insurance in the U.S. the difference can be huge.
But why are costs so low abroad compared to America? Rest assured that it has nothing to do with the quality of care and treatment that you’ll be receiving, but rather the cost of labor. Cost of labor for nurses, doctors, and surgeons is dramatically lower abroad which means that your bill will be lower as well. Even medical malpractice insurance is significantly cheaper abroad. This is something you will want to check on and get ahead of time in case of an emergency.
Incentives From Insurance
Some insurance companies have started to offer incentives for medical tourism to help save themselves money. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield have a program where someone seeking medical treatment abroad will be assigned a case manager that arranges for travel and accommodations for the patient and a companion as well as making arrangements for medical care and treatment after the procedure. Other companies offer discounts for the amount a patient has to pay out of pocket if they travel abroad for treatment.
Some companies, however, will not pay for medical treatment outside of the country unless it’s an emergency situation, such as that of the Seattle photographer discussed earlier. If you’re thinking about preparing for long term travel for a medical procedure, make sure to check with your insurance company beforehand to ensure that they will continue to cover costs abroad.
Many people choose to travel abroad for medical treatment specifically to seek out specialized surgeons and doctors. Surgeons and doctors in other countries are often known for specializing in a specific field of treatment. For example, Brazilian surgeons are known for their impressive plastic surgery skills. Brazilians are also rumored to be more likely to have plastic surgery done than any other country so, Brazilian doctors have plenty of opportunities to practice. The country even has a procedure with its name it in, the Brazilian buttock lift.
Many surgeons in foreign countries have trained and attended medical school in the United States and then return to their home country to practice, which means that a high percentage of foreign specialized surgeons speak English. If you’re preparing for long term travel to seek out a specialized surgeon abroad, make sure you do the proper research to find your best option.
Preparing For Medical Treatment Abroad
While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) views medical tourism as a risky choice, they have a list of recommendations to consider when preparing for long term travel and foreign medical procedures:
- Visit a travel medicine provider four to six weeks before your trip to talk over safe travel procedure and any risks traveling with your specific condition could cause.
- Make sure your current medical issues are under control and that your health won’t be jeopardized further by traveling.
- Check the qualifications of the providers that will be performing your procedure abroad. Make sure to account for the fact that credentials are obtained differently in each country.
- If you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the language, have a translator or another means of communication prepared so you can easily communicate with your doctors.
- Take copies of all of your medical records and prescriptions in case the internet is not available when you need them. Get copies of your new records before you return home.
- If you’re planning for vacation activities before or after your procedure, make sure to check that they are permitted per your specific treatment.
- Arrange for long term care or follow up care in your home country before you leave.
While some people choose to travel abroad for cheaper medical treatments, others accidentally discover the lower pricing when they’re injured or get ill on vacation and have to get emergency treatment, just as the Seattle photographer mentioned previously. You shouldn’t always count on this though. Different countries have different healthcare systems.
Popular Medical Procedures Abroad
Some of the most popular medical procedures to travel abroad for are:
- Breast Augmentation
- Hair Transplant Surgery
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- Cosmetic Dentistry
- Oral Surgery
- Cancer Treatment
- Orthopedtic Surgery
- Weight-Loss Surgery
- Plastic Surgery
Besides the lower costs for medical treatment, many people choose to travel abroad so they can combine their treatment with a vacation. Many foreign countries count on tourism and travel to help bring funds in. Even in the U.S., 2.7% of gross domestic product is attributed to travel and tourism. Here are a some important travel tips you should consider when preparing for long term travel.
While you may have to take some downtime after your procedure, depending on the severity of the treatment, you should also take time to plan for entertainment while you’re abroad. When preparing for long term travel, you want to ensure that you have taken full advantage of the opportunities you find at the destination you’ll be visiting. Whether it’s before your procedure or after, your trip should be about both your mental and physical health. Taking time to relax and enjoy a new place should be priority number two, after your health of course.
One of the most popular things people do when going abroad is checking out the new cuisine. Take some time to check out a restaurant or two in the area you’re visiting. When preparing for long term travel, make sure to study out the cultures of the area you’ll be traveling to as they can often be quite different and even strange compared to what you may be used to.
For example, if you’re traveling in Italy, you may want to stop at a pizzeria to try a locally made margherita pizza. Food is an important part of Italian culture, but their “norms” may be very different from your own. They eat late, so if you’re looking for a restaurant to dine at around 5:30 pm, you may be out of luck. Restaurants generally open around 7 pm for dinner and even then, it doesn’t start to get really busy for an hour or so.
Many people choose to visit a hair salon while on vacation to experience different beauty treatments. Similar to why people choose to travel abroad for medical treatment, beauty treatments abroad are often less expensive than in the United States. Women can get hair extensions put in, high-quality hair cuts and coloring, and other beauty treatments for a much lower cost. But it’s not only women that seek it out. Barbershops abroad often have unique facial treatments for men when they are getting shaved. If you’re preparing for long term travel abroad, make sure to check out any hair salons or barbershops that will be in your area to experience a relaxing and fun beauty treatment.
If it’s your first time in an area, take advantage of the popular tourist destinations in the area, but don’t forget to branch out. Many people traveling abroad are surprised to find beautiful and exciting sights and attractions that are not included in the typical list of tourist activities for a given area. By all means, see the known and beautiful architectural buildings and landscapes, but take some time to go off the beaten path and look for hidden treasures. Try a restaurant in a more residential part of a town. Ask the locals what their favorite part of a city is. You’ll never know what you’ll find until you look.
When preparing for long term travel, you’ll want to spend some time finding proper lodging for your trip. You may consider a hotel, Air BnB, or even a hostel. Take into consideration the type of medical procedure you’ll be traveling for when you plan your lodging. For example, if you’ll need a day or so of quiet and rest after your treatment, a hostel is not the option for you. If you’re just getting a small, quick procedure, you may be able to save some money staying at a hostel as you won’t need as much quiet and privacy afterward. Regardless, you’ll want to have lodging properly squared away before you even get on the plane.
If you’re staying at an Air BnB, make sure to clean up after yourself. If you really make a mess, you may want to hire a commercial cleaning company to come in after you to make sure you don’t leave a problem for the host. Live by the rule, “leave the place better than you found it” and consider how you would feel if you were opening your own home.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the amenities that may come with your choice of lodging. If there are inground swimming pools at your hotel, take some time to relax and take a dip. If your Air BnB has tools like a coffee or espresso maker, you can save a bit of money by making your own coffee rather than buying it at a cafe. Remember though to be a gracious guest and leave everything you use in good condition. If you use the pool at your hotel, don’t leave used towels laying around, store them in the proper place. If you use a coffee maker at the Air BnB you’re staying at, properly clean it after use.
If you are preparing for long term travel abroad for medical care, make sure you consider all of your options and plan accordingly for your trip. If done right, your trip will not only a great way to save money on a procedure but a beautiful memory that you’ll have for years to come </p.