When you think of traveling, images of sandy beaches and luxurious hotels come to mind—not visiting the doctor, right? Well, the truth is that more and more Americans are traveling for medical treatment overseas and domestically.
In fact, Google searches for “medical tourism” have jumped from 300,000 to over 8,920,000 in just ten years! As more people start to travel for treatment and discover the benefits of medical tourism, the interest is only going to increase.
Why are more people traveling for treatment?
In 2017, more than 1.4 million Americans traveled abroad to find medical treatments. One of the main reasons people are broadening their horizons is that healthcare is often less expensive in other countries. It’s no secret that the US healthcare system is one of the most expensive in the world. The same procedures performed in the US are often 30% to 65% less in other countries. On average, the cost for each medical tourist is about $3,800 to $6,000 per visit.
Most American medical tourists who go abroad do so because they lack health insurance, their current health insurance doesn’t cover certain conditions, or they are seeking cutting edge procedures and treatments not yet approved in the US.
How can you prepare to travel for medical treatment abroad?
- Do Research Before Selecting a Medical Provider Many people begin their search online when they are looking to travel for treatment. One of the top concerns individuals have when they start looking for healthcare services abroad is the quality of the care they will receive.
Reputable lists of hospitals and physicians abroad are available on U.S. embassy and consulate websites, under ‘American Citizens Services’. You can find references on physicians abroad on the American Board of Medical Specialists as well. To find accredited hospitals overseas that met US health provider standards, you can also go online to the Joint Commission International. Once you have located a hospital or a provider that interests you, you can reach out to the hospital to speak with physicians or ask to be put in contact with past patients.
- Check with Your Insurance Provider Overall, insurers like the idea of low-cost medical care, and the notion is starting to become more widespread. Before you go abroad, get in touch with your insurers to see if you are covered to receive care at hospitals overseas.
Some larger US insurance providers are considering adding medical tourism options, including Aetna, Cigna, and Humana. Companies are also starting to offer their employees incentives and care packages to find treatment options abroad. If your health insurance provides coverage outside of the US, you should carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance and a claim form.
For older Americans, health care outside of the US is not usually covered by entities like Medicare. In rare instances, Medicare may pay for care in a foreign country including inpatient hospital, doctor, dialysis, and ambulance services. Seniors might want to consider contacting Medicare, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), or a medical tourism agency to help gather more information about care overseas.
- Compare Treatment Options and Prices When you travel for treatment, prices are more affordable but can vary based on location and procedure. A lot of hospitals and facilities list the prices of procedures online on their websites, but often prospective patients need to fill out a form to receive a quote, similar to searching for life insurance. You can find and compare prices and ensure you are getting transparency in pricing up front. Internationally based hospitals should provide a breakdown of its quote before proceeding.
If you need assistance, an agency can also help you fully understand the services offered from facility to facility. For example, one hospital’s quote might cover the cost of the procedure while another may include the hotel, travel, rehabilitation, and follow-up care.
- Inform Yourself About Vaccinations Traveling can expose you to new pathogens, and some counties require visitors from overseas to have an International Certificate of Vaccination, a Yellow Card, or other proof of immunizations before entering the country. Before you head to your destination, check the country information guide to see what requirements need to be met to be granted entry.
To learn more about recommendations for vaccinations, malaria prevention, and other health precautions related to traveling abroad, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Prepare to Travel with Prescription Medications Before leaving on your trip, you should make sure your medications are good to go with you! You can check with the foreign embassy of the country you plan to visit to ensure your medications are permitted. You can also ask for a letter from the attending physician to describe your medication conditions and prescriptions to officials.
For easy identification, all medications should be kept in their original, labeled containers. If possible, you should also bring extra medication with you to cover the length of your trip should there be an unexpected delay.
- Find a Companion to Go with You Going on an adventure is always more fun when you experience it with someone. It’s a great idea to take a spouse, family member, or friend with you when you travel overseas for a procedure. You both get to enjoy new sights and experiences while having peace of mind knowing that someone close to you supports you.
- Consider Finding a Reputable Medical Tourism Agency Often the best way to explore health and wellness options around the world is to consult an expert. These providers have information about doctors, hospitals, and their accreditation status on hand. A medical tourism agency can help you gather important information and assist in coordinating your journey.
Changing the Face of Healthcare Around the World
Companies like mymedchoices are dedicated to helping privately-insured individuals, as well as employers and government agencies, find affordable care both domestically and internationally. For example, our care coordinators will guide you through the process every step of the way. We work with you to provide transparency in pricing, procedure coordination, and post-procedure follow up.
To improve care and increase the number of choices patients have regarding their providers, we have partnered with the following companies:
Founded by Dr. Claudia Mika, Temos International GmbH works to support the improvement in medical treatment and services for international patients seeking care around the world.
With over 24 years of experience, Prodentix is an interdisciplinary dental clinic focused on the health and wellness of international patients.
- Medifrance Solutions
Founded by top-rate French surgeons, Medifrance is dedicated to assisting patients from around the globe find a complete arrangement of diagnostics and treatments, all while recuperating in beautiful France.
- Great Lakes Anesthesiology
A full-service anesthesiology practice, Great Lakes Anesthesiology’s mission is to provide the highest quality of anesthesia services to patients in Western New York and around the world.
- Medical Tourism Training
Lead by Elizabeth Ziemba, Medical Tourism Training creates and provides solutions to enable service providers, including government and facilitators, to offer greater access to high-quality care to more patients.
Each of these services has come together to make a positive impact on the quality of care offered and provided in the US. As a woman-owned and operated company, we are incredibly pleased to be working closely with Dr. Claudia Mika and Elizabeth Ziemba. Through our efforts, combined with the State of Delaware for supporting women-owned business through the Global Trade Missions via the assistance of Beth Pomper, we strive to help patients around the world find more options and choices in their care.