There was a time when only patients from developing countries flocked to the more technologically advanced countries for medical services. While that continues today, the more popular trend has patients going in the opposite direction.
Medical tourism refers to residents of highly developed countries traveling to less-developed areas for various medical procedures and treatments. It’s anything but a vacation for these folks, however. Patients check-in, have their procedure, then usually stay a certain amount of time in the country to recover.
While not new, the popularity of medical tourism continues to endure, with a growing list of countries stepping up to get in on the action. Offerings in medical, surgical, and dental services continue to expand across the globe, and there are no signs that it will stop any time soon. Ironically, many of these foreign clinics are led by doctors who completed their training in developed countries, such as the United States.
So, what is the big draw? There are at least five reasons why medical tourism has taken off.
1. Cost Concerns
The rise of medical tourism, and its continuing growth and popularity, can mostly be attributed to the high cost of healthcare in developed countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The skyrocketing costs of medical treatments and procedures have become unaffordable to many citizens of these countries, and they are looking for other options.
2. Availability of Certain Treatments
When diagnosed with a serious illness or condition, patients, and particularly Americans, are beginning to see the benefit of going elsewhere in search of alternative treatment. For example, DMSO cancer therapies are available in Mexico but virtually unheard of in the U.S. The result is thousands of Americans flocking to Mexico for cancer treatment.
3. Limitations on Providers and Services
Another problem many patients experience in their home countries are limits placed on which providers and which treatments are allowed by the insurance company. With pre-authorization needed, the insurance company comes across as a dictator of sorts, disallowing specific procedures and telling you who you can and cannot see. This means you may have longer wait times for a procedure as everyone gets sent to the same list of doctors for the same procedure.
4. Noncovered Procedures
In many instances, certain procedures get classified as not medically necessary. In other words, they’re unnecessary for you to remain healthy. One, in particular, is cosmetic surgery, which most likely isn’t medically necessary but may improve a person’s quality of life. Costs may be cost-prohibitive in a home country, so patients look for other options, like specialty clinics in Costa Rica.
5. Lifetime Limits
Falling into significant debt, or having to file for bankruptcy due to exorbitant medical costs are a reality for many these days. Often, insurance companies place a limit on how much they will pay out over a person’s lifetime. While the law prohibits insurance companies from capping off the benefits a person can receive, insurers can still place limits on certain procedures and treatments. For someone with a significant illness, this can be devastating not only to their health but to their financial well-being as well. Now, there’s another option.
While those traveling to other countries for medical services need to do their research first, this hasn’t stopped the masses from going. From cancer treatments to hip replacements, to extensive dental work, medical tourism provides a solution for many people these days. And the trend is not going to disappear anytime soon.