If you need cosmetic dental work
or want a tummy tuck, but can't afford the cost, maybe you should consider a foreign
vacation -- a medical vacation.
Traveling overseas to combine
dental or medical services with an exotic holiday -- known as medical tourism
-- is projected to become a $40 billion-a-year industry by 2010.
If you think only the wealthy can afford a face-lift
in Brazil or a total knee replacement in Thailand, think again: An estimated 500,000
Americans from all walks of life are traveling to exotic locales every year to
save money on medical procedures.
The typical medical
tourist is a female between the ages of 45 and 70, but men also travel for treatment.
Why go overseas? Most often people choose medical tourism because they want an
elective procedure like cosmetic surgery that's expensive and isn't covered by
their insurance. Or maybe they're "under covered" by their insurance,
perhaps due to a pre-existing condition or a policy that requires large out-of-pocket
Sometimes people don't have insurance at all and
the cost of their elective procedure stateside is prohibitive. Some 46.6 million
Americans had no health insurance last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
"Cosmetic procedures make up about 80 percent of our
business," says Patrick Marsek, managing director of MedRetreat,
a medical tourism agency based in Vernon Hills, Ill.
procedures are gaining in popularity. Americans are traveling for knee or hip
replacements, spinal fusion, LASIK (Laser Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis) eye
surgery, hernia operations, cardiac surgery, joint arthroscopy, treatment for
urinary incontinence and more.
This map shows only a partial list of countries and
their recognized specialties. But you can often find qualified surgeons in various
specialties in many of the countries listed.
|Countries and specialties |
How much can
Expect to pay from 30 percent to 80 percent of the U.S.
cost, depending on the procedure and the destination. According to Jeff Schult,
author of "Beauty
From Afar," a face-lift in the United States costs $7,000 to $10,000.
In Brazil or Costa Rica? A face-lift costs $2,500 to $3,500.
amount of money you save is almost frightening," says Schult, who says he
had extensive dental work done in Costa Rica at a fraction of what it would have
cost in the United States.
"One of our case studies is
a 53-year-old male who has run his own business," says Ken Erickson, founder
and CEO of GlobalChoice
Healthcare, headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M. "He's uninsured and now
needs a knee replacement. In most cases, he won't even be able to get a price
quote from a hospital. He can call us and we know right away what the price is
for that procedure." "A travel package to India for this procedure
is about $13,000. To Singapore, about $18,000. In the United States, the price
is around $30,000," Erickson says. "He runs his own business, he's a
smart guy and so he's shopping around."