Should You Take Care of your Toothache in Thailand?

Patients struggling to find the right treatment at home are heading overseas and the globalization of health care is booming. More than 900,000 Americans have traveled abroad for treatment; should you seek more affordable care for your ailments out of country?

The debate over affordable healthcare is far from over and more than half a million Americans were denied coverage for pre-existing conditions from 2007 to 2009. To help offset the sometimes-exorbitant cost of healthcare, whether necessary or aesthetic, medical tourism is continuing to increase with nearly 900,000 Americans and 8 million patients from other countries seeking treatment far afield.

Patients Beyond Borders, a medical travel resource firm, estimates that medical tourism contributes some $24 to $40 billion dollars to the medical industry worldwide and when one examines the price tag of a procedure in the US, the hassle and expense of travelling to foreign countries, sometimes even in some of the least expected areas, starts to make an odd sort of sense.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that a coronary artery bypass graft would cost the average American $113,000 and in some states as high as 200,000, while in Mexico it would only set you back $3,250. Mexico may also be the desired destination for obese Americans and Canadians seeking bariatric procedures as the cost is 40-70% lower than domestic treatment.

Thailand is a popular destination for general medical care as the average cost of medical treatment is 50-80% less. It is also the destination of choice for gender re-assignment as the procedure has been well established in the country for decades, many more surgeons are trained on the meticulous procedure, and the price is up to 75% less than in America.

Over 250,000 patients worldwide head to India for fertility treatment which costs 3 to 4 times less than in the US, the UK, Spain or Russia. A typical fertility treatment can cost up to $10,000 in the US while only $3,000 in India. When combined with India’s other major medical tourism market, organ transplants, the medical tourism market accounts for $3.9 billion. Comparatively, a heart valve costs $15,000 in India vs. $150,000 in the US.

Turkey may be the top medical tourism destination for eye care, with laser treatment (including hospital stay) starting near $1,000 while a surprising destination for an MRI or a PET scan is Malaysia, which would cost only $1,500 dollars; half of the average price in the US. This city thrives on excellent healthcare in a setting that is dubbed less “jarring” than India or other locales.

Although some writers laude the experience of saving money on routine procedures such as a root canal coupled with a tourist experience, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes white papers warning consumers to do their research, emphasizing the need for rest and follow up with trained medical professionals.


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