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Should You Travel Abroad For Surgery? Is This For Real?

Have you heard about this crazy tactic to save money? Instead of having a surgery at their local hospital, people are traveling to places like Thailand,  Switzerland, and Mexico to save thousands of dollars. But what are the outcomes of these surgeries? Is the likelihood of a botched surgery greater overseas instead of in our first-rate healthcare facilities here in the states? Let’s dig in and find out if you should travel abroad for surgery.

Identifying the Costs

So what is the major reason for people flying half-way around the world to get cut open by a lesser-known doctor? The cost of course! Thousands, if not tens of thousands, can be saved by simply hopping on a plane for a week or two. Like myself, people tend to do crazy things when the price is right. And believe me, the costs on some of these surgeries are definitely right.

Take a look below at the cost difference between various countries for knee replacement surgery, hip replacement surgery, and bypass surgery.

Knee Replacement Surgery

travel abroad for surgery - knee replacement surgery

Hip Replacement Surgery

travel abroad for surgery - hip replacement surgery

Bypass Surgery

travel abroad for surgery - bypass surgery

 

The U.S. is a huge rip-off! If you choose not to travel abroad for surgery, you might end up paying 2 times, 3 times, or even 5 times the amount for the exact same surgery!

Other Benefits to Travel Abroad For Surgery

Alright, so we already covered one major benefit to travel abroad for surgery: the cost, but are there any other benefits? There certainly are.

1) Travel – Haven’t you always wanted to travel overseas, but just never had a good enough reason to get out of your rut and do it? Well, now’s your chance. Sure, you will be undergoing major surgery while you’re there, but you could take a day to sight-see before time!

2) Leisure – The costs are often so cheap once you get overseas that you’ll be able to stay for a solid two weeks in a luxury hotel to recover. Sit by the pool or take a stroll down the beach. You’ve got two weeks to sit around in paradise!

3) Insurance Premium Savings – Many people are finding it more difficult to pay their insurance premiums each month, so they are forced to raise their deductible to get by. In raising their deductible, their monthly premium suddenly becomes more affordable. And, if a major surgery is necessary, traveling abroad is a definite option to save on those large medical costs.

4) Expert Care – Just because a surgeon was educated in another country does not mean that they are any worse of a surgeon. In fact, some of the top ranked medical schools are located in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

The Potential Risks to Travel Abroad For Surgery

The major risk is probably what you would expect – the unknown. Because you are traveling abroad, there will likely be many unknowns: the doctor, the facility, the hotel accommodations, the food, and the rehabilitation techniques. You will basically be in the dark for all of these details. The only information you will have is probably a brochure and a few online recommendations and reviews.

The other major concern of traveling abroad is the botched surgery. If you do your research, you can likely get yourself a very qualified doctor overseas, but that still does not guarantee you a successful surgery. I mean, consider the same surgery in the U.S.; would your doctor say that the odds of a perfect surgery and a perfect recovery are 100%? Of course not. But, the major difference between a botched surgery in the U.S. vs. a botched surgery in Taiwan is thousands of miles. You may have thought your surgery was a success overseas, but once you get back home you might realize that you still aren’t well. This is where the situation gets very sticky. If you decide to travel abroad for surgery, understand that you might have to travel again if more surgery is needed, and you might just have to pay for it a second time.

How to Find the Best Care When Traveling Overseas

As health insurance costs have escalated, more and more companies started looking for other ways to save. As of 2010, traveling abroad became a very real option for employers to keep medical insurance costs low for themselves and for their employees. The company does the appropriate research ahead of time, puts together the package, and might actually charge you less in premiums if you agree to have a high-cost surgery in another country. If your company has all of the details and fully recommends the procedures, then chances are that the operation will be a safe one.

If you are interested in traveling overseas because you are uninsured or under-insured, the best site I have tracked down for your research is Patients Beyond Borders. This site has been featured by many publications including: U.S. News, New York Times, BBC, AARP, and the Wall Street Journal. As far as I can tell, they don’t actually price out the surgeries for you, but if you are curious about a hospital, doctor, or about the country as a whole, the information provided is extremely helpful.

The Future of International Surgery

As I was digging through various news stories to put this article together, I started thinking to myself (and now to you…), “If this whole world-wide travel for operations is becoming so safe, what’s stopping people from just choosing a huge deductible medical plan, and then just traveling abroad for surgery if something comes up?”

Honestly, I can’t think of much reason not too. I mean sure, the risk be a little higher because you’d bet getting sliced open in an entirely different country, but the cost savings would be HUGE. And who knows, you might never even need a surgery in the first place! I can see this being a very real solution for early retirees that simply can’t afford a low-deductible medical plan. Boom, globalization does it again!

What about you? Would you travel abroad for surgery if it could save you thousands of dollars?

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AUTHOR Derek

My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.

8 Comments

  1. I think the care you would get is probably fine, but I would not because of the issue of complications. Lots of US doctors would not touch you because they have no record of the provider and when you see a patient, you assume liability. That’s one reason care is so expensive. In the US, you can sue anyone for anything. Malpractice is usually settled, regardless if the doctor was at fault or not, so that makes the insurance costs continue to rise, increasing cost of care. Vicious cycle.

    • Great point, Kim. When I used to live in Florida I used to see billboards that read, “Who Can I Sue?”. Some people don’t want to make a living today, they just want to get rich while making someone else suffer. It’s despicable and it is destroying the affordability of insurance.

  2. Wow it’s crazy how much cheaper it is to go somewhere else for medical issues. I would definitely think about if my costs were that high.

    • Yes it is! Yeah, if I had no insurance and had a surgery that cost $90k, I would definitely look at other countries as real options.

  3. I would prefer to visit abroad for surgery because the cost of treatment is rising day by day and being a middle class it makes more sense to opt for medical tourism.

    • I might use it as my back-up plan someday in the near future if I have a huge deductible medical plan. Still freaks me out a little though.

  4. While going abroad for surgery may be less expensive, it is likely far more risky as well. As you said yourself, there is a greater possibility for a “botched surgery,” and doctors abroad are often less well trained than those in America, taking Argentina for example, and that isn’t something that should take second place behind cost. Likewise, many countries are shifting towards socialist medicine, which is great, since it can offer more opportunities for health care at a lower cost; however, than can often result in a lower quality of care. Either way, it is a smart way to save money, but I think it should only be done once all other aspects of surgery, such as recovering in your own country, have been taken into consideration and cared for. I hope you surgery goes well, whatever you choose to do!


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