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Is Medical Tourism in Your Retirement Future?

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

February 16, 2009. At first blush it’s a little hard to see what medical tourism – where you travel to a foreign country for a medical procedure or operation – is all about. After all, if you have any kind of medical insurance, why would you travel to a new country to have an operation when you you could have it done in the USA?
The fact is however, with health care costs increasing at six percent per year for the next decade, and medical tourism offering savings of up to 70 percent after travel expenses, there are plenty of reasons to travel. The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions announced in its new study, “Medical Tourism: Update and Implications,” that 750,000 Americans traveled abroad for medical care in 2007. Barring any tempering factors such as supply constraints, resistance from health plans, increased domestic competition, or governmental policies, Deloitte projects that outbound medical tourism could reach
upwards of 1.6 million patients by 2012, or 35 percent annual growth in coming years.

So why do people choose Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism to the U.S. has long been very popular, as wealthy patients from around the world seek out top U.S. health care facilities and specialists. Americans travel abroad primarily for medical operations such as cosmetic surgery and dental work, procedures not commonly covered by medical insurance. Almost 39% of Americans say they would go abroad for an elective procedure if they could save half the cost and be assured quality was comparable,with younger people and men more likely than others. Outpatient procedures account for 75% of medical tourism outside the U.S.

Value versus cost is the main reason for foreign travel. Patients can have procedures done for as little as 10% of the cost of U.S. treatment, which provides sufficient room to cover all travel costs, have a short vacation, and still save money. As one example, a knee surgery that would typically cost over $11,000 in the U.S. could be performed for a low average of just $1400 in other countries. State legislatures and health insurance companies have launched initiatives to explore the potential benefits of incorporating medical tourism into health plans as a way to save money. Many of the leading U.S. hospitals and health care systems have programs where foreign affiliates conduct procedures for U.S. residents.

Does it Make Sense for Retiring Baby Boomers?
Since Medicare will cover just about most major expenses when American baby boomers turn 65 (and none have done that yet), there isn’t much reason for older retirees to practice medical tourism. However, if you have no insurance coverage and aren’t under Medicare, it might be a very good idea. Likewise if you need extensive dental work or want cosmetic surgery at any age (which won’t be covered by Medicare), that’s another reason to consider it. High deductible and co-pay costs might be another reason to consider going to a foreign country for a big operation.

The Hot Countries for Medical Tourism
The Philippines, India, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, Gulf States, Germany, and Costa Rica are some of the main providers of medical services for U.S. residents.

Plenty of Resources
The medical tourism industry is surprisingly well organized. There are several companies that will help organize your trip and screen providers for you (or have their own network). PlanetHospital is one of those, along with insurer Mondial USA and publisher Patients Without Borders. The Joint Commission International, U.S.-based provider of foreign hospital certifications, is another great resource. Its website has information on more than 200 certified facilities in more than 30 countries.

What You Should Consider
The Deloitte survey on Medical Tourism has an excellent list of considerations that everyone should keep in mind before they embark on any medical tourism. Most are common sense, but they include things like making sure that the trip is voluntary, that HIPAA privacy concerns are protected, that patients are informed about all risks and costs, and that the procedures are done at an accredited facility.
For further reference
The original 2008 Deloitte Study on Medical Tourism (very informative)
US News article on Medical Tourism

Posted by John Brady on February 15th, 2010


  1. […] Read more: » Is Medical Tourism in Your Retirement Future? Topretirements […]

    by » Is Medical Tourism in Your Retirement Future? Topretirements | Michigan Dentists Guide — February 15, 2010

  2. Many people involved in the medical tourism industry are asking what direction the medical tourism industry is headed and what the future of medical tourism holds. Is the medical tourism industry growing, shrinking, or is it remaining stagnant with no changes? The economic recession has obviously had an effect on medical tourism, with some reported negative cases, however, for the most part positive effects.The future of medical tourism in the US is extremely positive. A recent Deloitte Report estimated that potentially over 23 million Americans could be traveling overseas by 2017, with those Americans spending over $79.5 billion dollars at international hospitals.

    by South dakota tourism — February 21, 2010

  3. The combined estimates from dentist and perio specialist where 85,000 and my dental plan covered 1500. 5 trips to costa rica @ 290/ rd trip, excellent food, not that I could eat all that much, average B & B @45/day and 20,000 to the dentists and I’m a very happy camper. Several friends have gone there as well. cleanest dental office Ive ever been to . check theyr web site

    by alex haff — February 27, 2010

  4. In my opinion, Medical tourism companies are alternative choice, because they are committed to finding the facility, physician and destination that serves your best interest, combining considerable cost savings with white glove service, safety and appropriate patient rights to ensure a complete and safe procedure.

    by CareDestination — July 26, 2010

  5. Medical tourism is an industry which is largely overlooked by the industry. Many want to live in Retirement homes overseas, since they have the means to do it. Swellendam,South Africa the 3rd oldest town in South Africa offers so many tourism related activities. Physicians are part of the cost saving when coming to south Africa.

    by Brian — November 5, 2010

  6. My website address in the above post is incorrect – it is corrected in this one. Sorry

    by Brian — November 5, 2010

  7. […] Resources: Is Medical Tourism in Your Future? Now That You're 65 – 10 Things You Need to Know (including how to sign up for Medicare) […]

    by » Your Early Retirement: What Are You Going to Do About Medical Insurance? Topretirements — July 11, 2011

  8. The cost of dental surgery in US and Canada is much higher than the combined cost of commuting, staying in a hotel, dental implant and vacation in Costa rica. Here metal implants are always avoided by the professional experts in place of porcelain. Apart from this Costa rica is one of the finest tourist destination for vacation. Dental holiday in Costa rica means a very cost effective dental remedy with a nice vacation with family out of your home.

    by Dental costa rica — January 6, 2012

  9. […] See also: Is Medical Tourism in Your Future? […]

    by » Medical Tourism in Guatemala: Report on a Recent Emergency Topretirements — February 28, 2012

  10. […] Resources: – Start here for answers to almost all your questions. Is Medical Tourism in Your Future? Now That You’re 65 – 10 Things You Need to Know (Part 1 in a series – includes […]

    by » How to Solve the Health Care Puzzle if You Retire Before Age 65 - Topretirements — September 30, 2014

  11. I went to Mexico for dental implants. I thought I did good research. it turned out to be a nightmare. Really incompetent, I had demanded a name brand implant and of course did not receive, and got an infection. It had to be redone in the states. Dealing with them was a joke.Name was stetic implant. You have no recourse, no legal remedy available to you. I was successful in reversing the charge on my visa but the office was unprofessional to say the least!

    by Nancy — October 1, 2014

  12. In April 2014 I spent a week in Escuzu, Costa Rica having extensive dental work (4 root canals and 6 crowns) Arrived on Sunday with first appointment on Monday morning when most of the work was done, some additional work on Tudesday, off for touring the country on Wednesday, Thursday. Final fittings were on Friday of that week. They have their own dental lab right there on location. Wife and I stayed in an apart hotel a half mile from the clinic and traveled everywhere in a taxi. They have a new shopping center with grocery, pharmacy, Starbucks and 6 different restaurants with everything from local meals to continental dining. We like the Argentinian restaurant the best. Our apart hotel had full kitchen, bath with shower, living room and dining room. desk was covered 24/7 and they speak English and eager to help any way needed. The dental care was excellent with little or no pain. Cost was half what I had been quoted by 2 dentists in my local area and they were able to save 2 teeth that dentists here wanted to pull and not replaced. We live near Orlando FL and our flight nonstop on Jetblue was inexpensive. Best of all the living expenses, travel expenses for both me and my wife are deductible on our taxes. Check it out, the dental clinic I used is Dentavac and yes they speak English. If you need extensive work even implants etc. this is a place to consider for cost savings and quality work.

    by David M. Lane — October 2, 2014

  13. Nancy – where in Mexico did you have your dental work performed? Los Algodones?
    What dentist did you use?

    by glenns — October 3, 2014

  14. Progresso,Mexico
    People there have been getting dental work done there for two decades and found that the work holds up very well long term. It is perfectly safe to go there.

    by susan — October 4, 2014

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