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Would You Travel Overseas for Cheap Surgery?

This article was written by in Health. 15 comments.

I had written a long post on this topic, but DreamHost went down before publishing it and I lost everything. Anyway, the Christian Science Monitor has an article describing how more people are traveling out of the country for healthcare, where service is less expensive. Some small companies are suggesting, requiring, or providing incentives for their employees to avoid the expensive United States healthcare system. Here’s an example:

Garrett’s medical care alone may save [his] company $50,000. And instead of winding up $20,000 in debt to have the operations in the U.S., he may now get up to $10,000 back as a share of the savings… His two operations could cost $100,000 in the U.S.; they’ll run about $20,000 in India.

Money leaving the United States can leave hospitals without money for medical research and for services for people who cannot afford insurance. Despite this, there’s a possibility outsourcing healthcare benefit the world in the long run. Organizations like the American Medical Association might disagree.

Have you ever traveled outside the United States for healthcare? Would you consider it now? If not, what would it take for you to consider it?

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published September 13, 2006. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Rich Slick

I had a relative who needed to get some x-rays while on a trip to the carribbean. She went and got a few x-rays. When she got the bill it was for $25.00 (twenty five dollars)! She was shocked and thought they made a mistake so she asked the doctor and he said it was the correct price. The same x-rays in the US would have cost at least ten times as much!

So the question arises, how can a “poor” carribbean island charge $25 for an x-ray while a US facility would charge $250 – 500 for the same thing?

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avatar Foobarista

One thing that is true is that many of these “tourist” hospitals have far better recovery care than many American hospitals, where you’re in a big bullpen with a staff nurse far away while recovering. In these places, you typically have a private room and can have your own nurse during your stay.

Also, they don’t charge $10 for Tylenol.

The point about subsidizing emergency rooms and such is a valid one, but this is a policy issue, not a market issue.

Major point: if prices go high enough, you _always_ have competition.

One thing the article doesn’t point out is that the tourist hospital business started in response to rationing in socialized medical systems in Canada and Europe.

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avatar Dean

I have gotten eyeglasses in Asia. I have extremely high power (-12.00) that would cost over $600 ($100 exam, $200 frame, $300 lenses) in the U.S. I got an exam, frame, and lenses for $150 in Asia. I was pretty happy with the results.

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avatar D

Yes, if I could afford the trip, the doctors pass my research and the procedure brought it all in under my share of the payment.

The question should be why wouldn’t you?

It’s like a score with a vacation mixed in.

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avatar Kevin

Absolutely. US health care costs are completely out of control, because nobody pays their own medical bills. Our employer, insurance co, or the gov’t pay most of them.

As a result, market forces of competition are null and void in the medical industry and that’s why it’s only getting more expensive. Then the lawyers come in with ridiculous lawsuits and multi-million dollar judgements. This only drives the costs higher to cover the cost of lawyers, judgements, malpractice insurance, plus defensive medical tests.

So in short, hell yes I’d travel overseas to get health care, as long as I believed I would receive quality care.

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avatar chica
avatar Steve Mertz

I looked at having a stem cell transplant in china. I ended up taking two sets of MRI’s and sending them to China. But after repeated emails they never responded-so I guess they decided I wasn’t a good candidate?? It was a very scary thought for me to consider the china alternative.

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avatar Randy

Surgery overseas? Yes, well kinda, if you count Puerto Rico overseas. I had some minor cosmetic surgery done in the unicorporated US territory because of the reduced cost. Removal of several moles and a bit of rhinoplasty. Even with airfare, hotel, meals, and the surgery, I still saved about $2500 over doing it in the states. The surgery was easy . . . the insurance part — well that was a bick tricky!


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avatar Nneka

My mom got her fillings and root canal done in Trinidad. The fillings lasted some 20 years before they needed to be redone. (We’re from Trinidad)

My brother on the other hand, had his fillings done here for about 10 times the cost and every 2 years, like clock work, they pop out.

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avatar Ricky

Depends on the surgery, but here in Thailand, tons of Japanese come to get health care. The doctors at these hospitals, are the top in the country, and most have studied in the States anyway. It’s all about the general cost of living. I’ve been to the dentist here and WAY nicer than I’ve seen in the US.

And if you are into it, Thailand is the best place in the world for a sex change operation as the do more than anywhere else in the world. This likely also means damn good plastic surgery.

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avatar Neil

Not really surgery, but a friend’s dad went to India and got a year’s supply of various heart medications he takes. The savings were more than the cost of his trip, even taking into account that he would have been paying only an insurance copay here.

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avatar William

My inernist went to India for a colonoscopy. Even with the professional fees waived, the facility charges would have been over $2000 here. Total price in India was slightly over $200 and that was in one of their top hospitals.

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avatar denise

I am considering stem cell transplant in Germany. In the U.S, the cost for sugery is $25.000, in Germany the cost is $12.000, So i could borrow 20.000 and have a vacation also. I don’t know if my insurance would pay or not. Does anybody know where i could get the operation finiaced.I have poor credit. If you know of a site could you please let me know. or if you know how i could get my insurance to pay. It is for type 2 diabets.

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avatar Laura

Could you tell me how the stem cell transplant went? I’m also diabetic and have been extremely interested in this procedure.


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avatar Lucia

Surgery in India is most likely the only option I have left to save my life. You see, I have been BLACKLISTED as a patient here in the USA. Why? Because my life threatening medical problems stem from facial cosmetic surgery I had here in the US by a board certified plastic surgeon and a highly renowned medical institution.

Without surgery, I cannot survive much longer and only hope that I have not waited too long and can handle the travel. How ironic is it that surgeons in this country refuse to treat patients whose injuries occur as a result of their slipshod operations?

My experience with surgeons in this country over the past 10 years of living hell has instilled a mistrust of the entire medical profession in this country. I am willing to place my life in the hands of a foreign surgeon and sign anything he wants absolving him from any untoward result. I am going to die soon if nothing is done, and doctors here have lied and stalled me off to where I have reason to believe they just want me to die, but they will not touch me. At this point, I would not let a surgeon in the US operate on me for free, that is the degree of MISTRUST I have in them. Even the best of them will stoop to the lowest level to cover their own mistakes as well as the errors of their brethren.

I do not believe doctors in other countries are so into deceit and cover-ups as American doctors.

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