Medical Tourism: Are the Savings Worth the Risks?

Medical tourism is a term that describes the increasing practice of traveling abroad for surgery. Due to the increasing cost of surgery in the United States, the number of Americans choosing this option continues to grow.

Patients Without Borders estimates that about 1.4 million Americans went outside the U.S. for medical care in 2016. Cosmetic surgery, heart transplants, and orthopedic surgery are among the most popular treatments sought by medical tourists.

If you become one of these travelers, you’ll want to understand the pros and cons of traveling abroad for surgery.

The number one reason people travel for surgery is cost. In Brazil, you can save 20 to 30 percent of the cost for surgery in the U.S. In Thailand, savings range from 50 to 75 percent. Mexico offers 40 to 65 percent savings. India offers the highest range of savings, from 65 to 90 percent.

Other positives of traveling abroad for surgery include receiving a treatment not yet approved in the U.S. and experiencing shorter wait times for surgeries.

Keep in mind that traveling abroad for medical care also comes with risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that medication may be subpar. Additionally, some countries may not screen their blood supply as well as the U.S. does, putting you at risk for infectious diseases. Errors can also result from language differences. Lastly, other countries may use unsafe practices, such as reusing needles, which could also expose you to risk.

For suggestions to overcome these risks, visit the CDC website.