The state of health care in the United States is a hotly debated issue, both among practicing physicians and politicians. This is why medical tourism has reached such a high point over the last decade or two, a practice that involves Americans flying overseas for various medical procedures. Before you scoff your nose at this possibility, however, it helps if you have all the facts.
The first concern with medical tourism, of course, is accreditation. Is a hospital overseas equipped with sufficient knowledge and staff to perform a procedure of equal quality to one performed in the U.S.? If you seek affordable medical health, it is important that you don’t sacrifice the quality of the procedure for the comparatively inexpensive cost, especially with a serious condition that involves surgery.
Fortunately, there are international associations that can help you decide if medical tourism is right for you. Hospitals overseas can participate in a world-wide accreditation program, such as the Joint Commission International. The JCI was founded in 1999 to help find and review international hospitals, and gives patients information about facilities overseas that might meet their needs.
The main reason why many Americans pursue medical tourism is because the procedures overseas are usually far less expensive than those you would find on U.S. soil. A good friend of mine, for example, went to Austria to have his gallbladder removed, a procedure that saved him about $20,000 even with the flight, hotel bills, hospital stay and meals. As a freelance web designer, he didn’t have insurance to cover his medical bills, so this was the right way to go.
Whether or not medical tourism is right for you will depend on your personal financial situation. If you have good health insurance that covers the procedure you need to have, flying overseas is probably not in your best interests. However, if you lack medical insurance, or if you need a procedure that isn’t covered, you might find another country is far less expensive.
Before you make the decision to go with medical tourism, it is also important to consider the urgency of the situation. How quickly must the procedure be performed, and will your health be adversely affected by flying overseas? If your condition is worsening by day, and if you need surgery right away, medical tourism might not be the way to go. You could damage your health further, or risk long-lasting complications, by delaying the procedure with a flight.
Furthermore, it takes time to research medical tourism and to find an appropriate hospital overseas. You’ll need to contact the hospital directly to find out if they have available physicians and space, and you’ll want to contact people who have actually used their services. Relying solely on the word of an international association is not advised.
Balancing the Scales
In the end, you’ll have to weigh the benefits of medical tourism against the drawbacks of flying overseas for a medical procedure. Will you benefit from leaving the country for medical help, or will you just save money? And will the physicians overseas be able to meet your needs? Only research and careful examination of your situation will answer those questions.