What Is Medical Tourism? Insurance Facts You Might Not Know

What Is Medical Tourism? Insurance Facts You Might Not Know


Have you ever heard a friend of yours mention taking a trip to a foreign country in order to have a medical procedure done? If you haven’t, that probably sounds downright unbelievable. How wealthy does someone need to be to get on a plane and fly to a foreign country just to have their favorite doctor operate on them?

However, this is more common (and affordable) than you’re likely imaging. Due to a combination of complicated factors, there are a lot of procedures in the US that are very expensive, even with good health insurance. However, in other countries, those procedures could cost a small fraction of their US price tag.

When Medical Tourism Is the Right Call

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you’re considering the cost of hip surgery. For this section, we’ll be illustrating the point with examples of prices based on some averages, not exact numbers from any particular hospitals.

When you check on the cost of the surgery in the US, it’s going to cost you $2,000 out of pocket. That’s a lot of money, you might be thinking. Then, out of curiosity, you check how much that surgery would cost you if you were in Spain. You’re shocked to discover that the procedure would only cost you $200 out of pocket.

This is when “medical tourism” becomes a viable option. You could save $1,800 and visit a foreign country for a vacation, using that money you saved to treat yourself to a nice time before your procedure. You don’t even need to spend all of the money you saved if you don’t want to.

Isn’t That Dangerous?

There’s a popular misconception that paying less for a procedure in a foreign country means that you’re getting an underqualified doctor to perform sub-standard work. However, this is rarely the case. Make sure the surgeon in question is board certified, and do a bit of research before you agree to any procedures. However, if you do your due diligence, you’re unlikely to run into any serious issues.

The thing is, in countries with low out-of-pocket medical costs, their health system is simply organized very differently than in the United States. For a number of complicated reasons, many procedures in the US cost the patient significantly more than they will in other countries.

So, the next time you need an expensive medical procedure, do some research into what that same procedure might cost in other countries. You just might find you can set aside some money for a nice vacation while you’re getting the work done.