Travel abroad for health savings. Offshore medical treatment is a trend whose time has come. It even has its own catch-phrase: "Medical Tourism."
Somewhere between a quarter to half a million Americans today travel abroad for treatment. Favorite destinations are India and Singapore, where English is spoken and, for example, heart surgery that might cost $150,000 in the US, costs about $18,000 in Singapore.
When Elena and I lived in Mexico, we had a British insurance plan called BUPTA. It was an international plan. It covered doctor and hospital costs for treatment anywhere in the world--EXCEPT IN THE USA! We could go to Switzerland, if we wanted, and get treatment there (paying for our own transportation, of course). That's how much more medical treatment costs in the US are, compared to the rest of the world.
Elena needed emergency spinal fusion surgery while we were living in Mexico. She had it done in a world-class hospital in Mexico City. The bill was under US$10,000 (which BUPTA paid). The point is, in the US, her surgery would have cost five times as much. Routine dental procedures cost us about US$30. I had a root canal while in Mexico and it cost me roughly US$100. Excellent work in modern facilities in all cases.
Health care cost increases of 8% annually are what's driving this movement toward offshore medicine. Ms. Katherine Q. Seelye reported recently in the New York Times that medical tourism is growing 35% a year, and by 2012 could reach 1.6 million Americans. Employers are catching the bug. "Hannaford Brothers, a supermarket chain based in Maine, with 27,000 employees in five states, ... offers to send its employees needing knee or hip replacements to Singapore. The medical costs would be so low that the company would pay the employee's insurance co-payment of about $2,500 and the travel expenses for the employee and a spouse or companion."
For more information, contact the Medical Tourism Association at http://www.medicaltourismassociation.com. On their web site they describe their charter as follows: "The Medical Tourism Association (Medical Travel Association), also known as the Global Healthcare Association, is the first international non-profit association made up of the top international hospitals, healthcare providers, medical travel facilitators, insurance companies, and other affiliated companies and members with the common goal of promoting the highest level of quality of healthcare to patients in a global environment. The Association promotes the interests of its healthcare provider and medical travel facilitator members. The Medical Tourism Association has three tenets: Transparency, Communication and Education." Education.
But why travel to faraway India or Singapore when some of the finest hospitals in the world are in nearby Latin America? And as a bonus, you can combine your hospital stay with recuperation time at one of the terrific vacation spots our southern neighbors have to offer.
If you need further incentive, consider this: the 3 countries named below are repeatedly designated the best retirement countries in the world by International Living magazine
We can offer three personal recommendations on this topic.
Most of the doctors in these hospitals speak English and many were educated in the U.S.
The newly opened Omni Hospital in Guayaquil, Ecuador specializes in Medical Tourism.
"In the framework of globalization of activities in the entire world, Health Services have an important place, due to the desire of the population of developed countries to look for alternative medical services in developing countries, for the quality of their services and lower cost. For foreigners we seek through our human talent, technology and infrastructure to guarantee the best care to the best cost, always in accordance with the confidence of the patient."
Guayaquil is the business center of Ecuador. It's a modern city of 3 million people, with many fine restaurants, museums, parks and -- a must see -- the newly-completed Rio Guayas riverfront walk.
If the beach is more to your liking, you're a 1 1/2 hour, $10 van ride to Salinas. It's Ecuador's largest and most popular seaside resort. Check it out on YouTube.
And, it might interest you to know: Ecuador has been named the No. 1 Retirement Country in the world -- for the 5th year in a row -- by International Living magazine.
The ABC Hospital (American British Cowdray) in Mexico City is a private, non-profit hospital. This is where I had my back surgery performed. To view their English language website click on ABC Hospital.
Mexico City has a world-wide reputation for fine art and history museums. And it's a short hop to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun or Cozumel.
Hospital Punta Pacifica, in Panama City, Panama. We visited this hospital in 2011 shortly after it had just opened. From their website: "the first hospital in Latin America and the Caribbean affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine International. Here in Panama, the affiliation between Hospital Punta Pacifica and Johns Hopkins exists solely to ensure that you and your loved ones get the best healthcare at the highest level of... patient. Whether you want cosmetic surgery or life-saving procedures...come to Punta Pacifica Hospital. Here, you will be the focus of our attention; we are a customized hospital." To view their website click on Hospital Punta Pacifica.
Panama City is a beautiful, modern city, likened to Miami. Great restaurants and parks. And Panamanians favorite beach, Coronado, is just an hour's drive away.