Your Medical Tourism Questions Answered


Health insurers trying to tame rising medical costs have started offering medical care in other countries as a money-saving solution. Here are some things to consider if your insurer offers these trips.

How high is your deductible? Travel can make little sense if insurance is already covering most of your bill for care closer to home. But it may be worthwhile if you have a high-deductible plan that means you have to fork over several thousand dollars from your pocket.

Are there any incentives? Some insurers will waive the deductible if you agree to take the trip because the savings to them is so great. Employers also may provide time off for the travel, and some programs will pick up travel costs too.

What kind of savings can you find abroad? Medical tourism can cost 80% less, not counting travel costs, depending on the procedure. Dental work, hip and knee replacements, heart bypasses and cosmetic procedures are common procedures for medical tourists.

How can you check for quality? Ask your insurer how it vetted the hospital or care providers in its overseas care network. Ask how many times the doctors have done your procedure, since there's a strong tie between quality and experience.

How will follow-up care be handled? Some U.S. providers have agreements with hospitals in other countries to coordinate care after a procedure.

What are the travel expenses outside the cost for care? These can run anywhere from several hundred dollars to $10,000 depending on where you go and how long you stay. Some overseas hospitals provide accommodations for the patient and a companion.

Is it OK to travel alone? No. The Medical Tourism Association recommends traveling with a friend or relative, who can assist you and help and navigate the health care system in another country.

How long do these trips take? Again, it depends on what you have done. Trips for dental care can take only a few days, but surgeries may require a stay of a couple weeks.


Sources: Medical Tourism Association, Harvard Medical School professor Sharon Kleefield

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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