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Medical tourism offers healthy savings

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Schult believes these issues can be worked out. "Doctors overseas will work with you to have the records transferred here. People think their American doctor will get mad at them when they find out. But you have to get over that. We have to be responsible for our own care," says Schult.

Other considerations
Before you travel to a foreign land, check out the CDC's Traveler's Health site, which provides detailed information on vaccines you should get before traveling; diseases often found in the area, things you should take with you and how to stay healthy during your trip.

Many agencies will handle currency conversion for you. You'll pay the agency in U.S. dollars and they'll handle the rest. Many of them also have financing options available if you need it. If you're going on your own, educate yourself about the exchange rate in your destination country. A good place to start is Bankrate's currency converter calculator, which converts U.S. dollars into the currency of your selected country.

Don't assume you'll be able to write personal checks or pay for services with your credit card. Talk with your surgeon ahead of time so you'll know how much cash you need to have with you. Then bring extra cash for emergencies.

The future of medical tourism
Some experts expect medical tourism to increase over the coming years.

  • Self-insured corporations are expected to take advantage of low-cost overseas health care for their employees. One of the pioneers in this area, Blue Ridge Paper Co., of Canton, N.C., had planned to send its first worker to get surgery in India, but the United Steelworkers of America blocked it.
  • Since this is an unregulated area, expect to see some legislation designed to protect medical tourists.
  • Schult predicts medical tourism will grow from 15 percent to 20 percent a year as the baby boomer generation continues to age and the desire for necessary and cosmetic medical needs continues to grow.
  • Some predict that major insurance carriers will start covering individuals who are willing to go for lower-priced surgeries overseas at accredited institutions.

Medical tourism agencies/services
This is a burgeoning field so expect to see more newcomers. On many of these sites, you can do cost comparisons for various procedures between the United States and different countries:

Medical tourism agencies/services:
MedRetreat, Vernon Hills, Ill.
GlobalChoice Healthcare, Albuquerque, N.M.
Medical Tours International, New York
MedSolution, Vancouver, Canada
Medicaltourism.com, resource for patients and industry providers
Surgeon & Safari, based in South Africa
IndUShealth, focuses on medical tourism to India
PlanetHospital, Calabasas, Calif.
Quest MedTourism, Katy, Texas
GoSculptura, based in Canada, specializes in cosmetic surgery in Argentina
Surgical Services International, Inc., offices in the United States and London
MedNetBrazil, a concierge service that focuses on Brazil
Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: March 23, 2007
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