With more and more folks traveling out of the country to get affordable medical care, we thought we’d share the story of one woman’s decision to go to India to get the surgery she needs without spending the $100,000 it would cost her in the U.S.:
Tacke, who had a discectomy in 2007, is covered by her self-employed husband’s insurance policy. But the discectomy — the surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord — puts her in a “pre-existing condition” category. She signed a document stating medical treatment to her spine would not be covered.
In 2009, the pain returned, and an MRI showed things had worsened. She tried cortisone shots and physical therapy, to no avail, and has leaned on narcotic painkillers and muscle relaxers since then.
She said going abroad for care is the best option for her. The 2010 major federal health care overhaul, often called Obamacare, does not fully take effect until 2014.
“To be asked to hold on for two more years, it’s not a way to live,” she said.
Americans traveling to India pay about 80 percent less for treatment than they would here, Mohanasundaram said.
“It’s just a different country and time zone,” she said. “Other than that, they will have the same quality and the same experience.”
Tacke said in the U.S. she would have paid up to $100,000, not including physical therapy, for her surgery. In India, it will cost $16,000, including the surgery, meals, airfare, transportation and the post-surgery hotel stay for her and her mother-in-law.
Before you start flying off to India/Costa Rica/Indonesia, though, take a moment to think about your situation. Medical tourism may be a good way to save money, in many cases a lot of money, but it is not without risks. If you are considering medical tourism, you should carefully consider these risks before traveling abroad:
Licensing and Certification. Most importantly, it is important to consider that other countries may not regulate professional licensing and certification as closely as the United States. As with all treatments and procedures, it is important to inspect the credentials of any physician treating you. If your physician claims to be U.S. trained and/or certified, you should be able to find confirm this information fairly easily from whatever organization he or she claims affiliation with.
You should also check to see whether the hospital and facilities you are considering have received accreditation similar to what you may find in the United States. For Americans, the best-known accreditation group is the Joint Commission International (JCI), the international arm of the Joint Commission in the U.S., a non-profit organization that accredits U.S. hospitals. Many hospitals which serve international patients have obtained JCI accreditation in an effort to attract more American patients.
Limited Legal Recourse if Things Go Wrong. In the event that the worse case scenario occurs and something does go wrong, you should also consider that you may have very limited legal options. One reason why the cost of medical care in the United States is so expensive is because of the high costs of the malpractice insurance that American physicians carry. Although you can benefit from the lower costs of foreign care if it is successful, if things go wrong, you may find yourself in a foreign country without any ability to seek compensation for malpractice. Even if you are able to win a malpractice case, the doctor or hospital may not have the money, resources or insurance to cover the financial damages that are awarded to you.
You Need Sufficient Follow-Up and Recovery Time. Some hospitals that specialize in medical tourism are in the business of getting patients in and out quickly. If that is the case, you may not receive the follow-up care necessary for your treatment.
You may have to find that follow-up care on your own at home, which may be a pricey proposition as well as an inconvenient on.
In addition, you need to be very mindful of having sufficient recovery time after receiving treatment. Traveling too soon after surgery can cause serious complications. If you fly, the combination of high altitudes and sitting for long periods of time can cause blood clots and pulmonary embolisms, which are both potentially fatal. Less seriously, you risk swelling and infections. If you have surgery in a foreign country, make sure you do your homework on what kind of recovery time is required before you risk travel.
Exposure to Disease. As with whenever you travel to a foreign country, you do risk exposure to diseases to which you have not built up any immunity. Some countries, such as India, Malaysia, or Thailand have very different infectious disease-related epidemiology to Europe and North America. Exposure to diseases without having built up natural immunity can be a hazard for weakened individuals, specifically with respect to gastrointestinal diseases (e.g. Hepatitis A, amoebic dysentery, paratyphoid) which could weaken progress, mosquito-transmitted diseases, influenza, and tuberculosis.
Do you still have questions about medical tourism? Tell us about it in our discussion forum!
- Will Health Insurance Pay For Your Medical Tourism? It’s a Definite Maybe…
- Medical Tourism: Is Going to India for a Surrogate Worth It?
- Medical Tourism: Should You Book a Surgery With Your Summer Vacation?
- Can You Save On Your Medical Bills With Medical Tourism?
- Is Dental Tourism an Option For Affordable Dental Care?