Almost half of Americans who are sick can’t afford services such as medical care, prescription medicine, mental healthcare, dental care or eyeglasses, according to a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Although healthcare in my home country of Australia is more accessible than many other countries, Medicare does not cover everything. Services such as dental examinations and treatment, glasses and contact lenses can easily add up to hundreds of dollars.
Fortunately, while traveling overseas, I found a way to access quality healthcare at a fraction of the cost of that of the U.S. or Australia. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too.
The Medical Tourism Industry
Medical tourism is an emerging global industry, valued at $19.7B in 2016 and expected to rise to $46.6B by 2021. The reasons that people travel for medical care include certain treatments not being available in their home country, seeking a higher quality of care and avoiding high treatment costs and long wait times.
Is Medical Tourism Safe?
The most common considerations that people have when deciding whether to access medical care abroad is the quality of care and hygiene practices. In reality, many countries around the world offer excellent healthcare that could be more affordable than and superior to the options available in your home city.
When planning to go abroad for medical care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend checking the qualifications of your chosen provider abroad, as well as discussing the matter with your local doctor and insurance company. An important consideration is how you will communicate, although I’ve been able to find English-speaking medical staff in many countries around the world.
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My Experience Using Healthcare Overseas
While traveling, I have been to hospitals in Italy, Indonesia, Canada, Laos, the Philippines and Argentina. I’ve also been seen by individual doctors in Spain, Germany, Brazil and the U.S. It’s worth noting that as a foreigner, healthcare in the U.S. was one of the more expensive for me. Luckily, my visit was covered by travel insurance.
Overall, my medical tourism experiences were great, however, with mostly short wait times and lower costs. In Argentina, I was able to see a private optometrist, dermatologist and dentist, have a full checkup with blood work, and buy new prescription glasses and sunglasses — all for about $250.
Choosing the Best Countries for Healthcare and Procedures
The title of “best healthcare in the world” is heavily disputed. However, it is important to realize that many countries may specialize in certain procedures or technologies. China and Brazil are popular for plastic surgery; Thailand is well-known for cosmetic, dermatological and dental procedures; and Turkey is leading the way in the areas of transplant surgery, radiation therapy, neurosurgery and more.
Ultimately, you should do your research to find the best location and provider to suit your needs. By opting to access healthcare abroad, it could save you money while also enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Then, all you need to do is convince your boss for time off.
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