So, you are considering medical tourism as an option. Here are 5 issues you should consider before booking that flight.
- Insurance: Most U.S. health insurance companies only cover procedures done in the patient’s home network coverage area. They generally do not cover procedures performed in foreign countries, which means that the trip and the procedure are out-of-pocket expenses. The continual increase in medical tourism, however, is forcing some insurance companies to change their stance. One U.S. insurer is offering to waive a $3,000 deductible for very expensive hip surgeries, if the surgery is done overseas. In fact, insurance companies will probably jump on the medical tourism bus within the next decade or so, if they can see a way to save their money on your care.
- Malpractice laws: Be advised that the main reason medical procedures are so inexpensive overseas is partially due to the lack of medical malpractice insurance. Doctors and hospitals pass those savings on to you. The lack of coverage does not mean they are necessarily doing anything wrong. Quite the contrary. It just means that the laws governing malpractice in foreign countries are very different than those in America. Translation: You have no recourse to sue.
- Recovery issues: Medical professionals in the United States have expressed concern that patients will be rushed through recovery and forced back onto a plane. This is unlikely but make sure you schedule enough vacation time to be able to recovery completely. It is also important to note that doctors always recommend keeping scars out of direct sunlight for the first 12 months after surgery. It helps the healing process and to minimize the discoloration. So, do not plan on spending your recovery in a lawn chair at the pool.
- Traveling home: When you are fully recovered, another concern arises with long, international flights and the risk of blood clots. Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor but it is always a good idea, post-op or otherwise, to get up and walk around every hour on long flights to maintain proper blood flow. You could also spend some of the money you saved on upgrading to higher-class seats. Airline economy-class seats are notoriously cramped; business and first-class offer considerable more legroom and comfort.
- Follow-up care: Under normal circumstances, a patient schedules several check-ups with their doctor after surgery, sometimes as far out as 12 months post-operative. This can be difficult when the surgeon is in Phuket and you are in Punxsutawney. Be sure to ask your primary care physician if they can perform follow-up care or inquire with your medial travel agency on their standard protocol.
The advantages to medical tourism are very real but so are the risks. Be sure you weigh out the pros and cons before making your decision to go ahead with surgery.