Even if you have good health insurance an expensive medical procedure can destroy a bank account. And insurers consider many procedures elective, which means you foot the entire bill yourself. So increasingly more consumers are choosing to go overseas for treatment. Because medical tourism costs can be much, much lower than healthcare at home.
What is medical tourism?
“Medical tourism” simply means visiting another country to undergo a health-related procedure. Americans can visit another county with good, high quality medical care — often for tens of thousands of dollars less. Recovery centers are often more like spas than hospitals. And patients may get to do some sightseeing as well.
How much can you save with medical tourism?
Fortunately, the cost of flying to another country and getting a knee replacement or dental surgery or whatever you need is probably less expensive than you think. According to Medical Tourism Magazine, approximately 20 million people travel across the globe every year to receive healthcare services, spending an average of $3,410 per visit.
Here is a list of most common procedures that Americans go overseas to get, according to the Journal of American Medicine:
- Cosmetic surgery
- Cardiac conditions
- In vitro fertility
- Weight loss
- Liver, kidney transplants
- Spine surgery
And this table shows the relative costs of common procedures by country, courtesy of Medical Tourism Magazine:
Which is why you might want to apply and get a personal loan for medical tourism.
But don’t just rush and book an appointment and some airfare. You’ll want to think several things through.
Picking a country for medical tourism
Believe it or not, finding a personal loan for medical tourism is often the easiest piece of this puzzle. The hardest is choosing a country and lining up your doctor. According to the Journal of American Medicine, these are the most common countries for medical tourism:
- Costa Rica
- South Korea
The right country, doctor and facility for you depend on your procedure, resources and traveling preferences. The CDC says that flying after certain surgeries, for instance, can increase your risk of blood clots.
The CDC also says, “Check the qualifications of the health care providers who will be doing the procedure and the credentials of the facility where the procedure will be done. Remember that foreign standards for health care providers and facilities may be different from those of the United States.
“Accrediting groups, including Joint Commission International, DNV International Accreditation for Hospitals, and the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, have lists of standards that facilities need to meet to be accredited.”
If you want to see if a facility has passed muster with the HCI, you can find out at JointCommsssionInternational.org.
Planning your trip
Plenty of people kind of make it a hobby and do a lot of research online and make phone calls and send emails. Or you could contact a health travel planner. There are websites like Patients Beyond Borders that offer information for medical tourists.
Next, see if you can turn this surgical procedure into an actual vacation. If you can get a vacation out of it and save a lot of money on a medical procedure, that’s a bonus. Many medical facilities offer recovery services that may range from a basic room to an all-inclusive resort, depending on what you want to pay. Often, even the top-tier option is surprisingly cheap.
How much do you need to borrow?
You may not need as much as you think. While rare, some employers and insurers do cover medical tourism costs. Especially if it’s not an elective procedure. It can’t hurt to ask before you start shopping for personal loans.
On the flip side, don’t forget to consider all related expenses. Will you need to go back to the same hospital for a follow up visit? That may not matter if it’s a couple days later — you can make it part of your vacation. If you need to follow up a month or two later, that may be another story. And if something goes wrong, you may not have the same recourse that you do in the US.
Plan to have access to extra money just in case.
Why pay for medical tourism with a personal loan?
If you need or really want a procedure overseas, you can’t have them bill your insurer. You need to pay upfront. And some conditions become more dangerous or painful over time.
Borrowing allows you to take care of your issue now if you don’t have the ready cash. It’s almost certainly cheaper than credit cards, and most personal loan interest rates are fixed. Suppose you need a knee replacement ($40,000 in the US) and decide that nearby Mexico is a good option for you ($12,000). How much will it cost to finance it?
That depends on your interest rate and loan term. Personal loan rates in general are about 7% lower than those of similar credit cards as of this writing. The chart below gives you an idea.
Medical tourism: you decide
Getting dental work in Belize may be the most fun thing ever. Having a hip replaced thousands of miles away from home may be another story. But it’s worth doing some digging and trying to find out if getting an operation in another country is feasible and if you can get a personal loan for medical tourism.
If it works out, where you can find a reasonable way to pay for medical care that you need, and you can go on an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip, your hernia operation may just be the best thing that ever happened to you. And who would have ever thought you’d say that?