Comparing Medical Treatment Costs Overseas Versus at Home

Comparing Medical Treatment Costs Overseas Versus at Home

Before you jump on the medical tourism bandwagon, a little comparison shopping is in order. Everyone has a unique situation, a set of variables that can help determine if medical travel is the right way to go. While it might be perfect for Patient A, Patient B might not find this alternative quite as appealing. One of the major points to consider is the cost of medical treatment overseas versus what you would pay at home.

Costs of Medical Treatment

The primary expense you will incur when you seek medical treatment overseas is the procedure itself. Medical tourism can greatly reduce the cost of surgery and other procedures, but the difference in price should be the determining factor. It might be worth it to pursue medical travel for a $15,000 reduction, but if you’re only saving a few hundred dollars, it might be better to get the medical treatment at home.

Generally speaking, the countries where you will save the most money on medical treatment are India, Thailand and Singapore, while you’ll probably save more money on dentistry in countries like Costa Rica and Hungary. If you’re looking to have cosmetic surgery, Mexico and South Africa should be on your list of potential medical travel destinations. The amount of money you save on the procedure itself will determine your overall costs.

Procedure Ex. Cost in U.S.* Ex. Cost Overseas* Savings
Hip Replacement $60,000 $7,000 $53,000
Spinal Fusion $90,000 $8,000 $82,000
Lap Band $15,000 $6,000 $9,000
Angioplasty $60,000 $10,000 $50,000
Heart Bypass $80,000 $8,000 $72,000
Gastric Bypass $23,000 $9,000 $14,000

*Examples only. Figures derived from quotes on foreign hospital web sites, and vary greatly by region, hospital, and particular details of each patient.

As you can see from the chart above, the savings vary widely. A patient might decide that a spinal fusion would be worth medical travel, but he might be on the fence about a lap band where he’s saving $9,000.

Cost of Implants
Another matter that you need to consider before deciding on medical travel is the cost of implants, and how they might alter your overall expenses. Surgeries that require implantation of manufactured products, such as hip replacements and lap band surgery, may be even more expensive overseas than they are at home. Of course, this is only if the hospital abroad is importing FDA-approved products, which is something you definitely want in order to stay safe.

Unfortunately, even though foreign countries might offer surgical procedures at lower costs, they often mark up their implants because of the cost of shipping them overseas. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask about the specific costs of these implants and request an itemized list of costs so that you can better evaluate your situation.

Quality of Care and Treatment
You might be considering medical tourism in order to save money on medical treatment, but you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the care you receive for a lower price. Choosing a reputable, accredited facility with experienced doctors and an educated staff can make all the difference in your health and safety, so make sure you broaden your horizons when looking at various countries and hospitals.

Many people choose a medical travel destination based on the credentials of one specific physician, or on the reputation of a particular hospital. For example, the Apollo Hospital Group in India has just under 40 hospitals in Asia, with more than 7,000 beds, and was the first facility in India to become JCI accredited. Choosing a hospital group like this can put your fears about medical tourism to rest while you still save money on the procedure itself.

Costs of Travel
You not only have to consider the procedure required for medical tourism, but also the costs of getting to and from your destination country. You’ll have to pay for airfare and transportation while abroad, and you might even need to book a hotel room for a few nights while you recover. You might be able to save money on travel by working with a medical travel agent, who can help you find the best deals on airfare and accommodations. Agents often have the “inside scoop” on ways that patients can save money, but don’t neglect your own research as well.

Follow-Up Costs
If you’re going to have major surgery overseas, or if complications develop following treatment, you will need to make arrangements for follow-up care. Some patients decide to stay overseas until they’ve fully recovered, which is certainly an option if you have the means to pay for lodging during that time. You can also stay with friends or relatives if you have contacts in that country, but you’ll need to make arrangements ahead of time.

Other patients save sufficient cash through medical tourism, which they can use to budget for care at home after the initial procedure. Barring extensive complications, you might only need to see your physician at home once or twice following the procedure, in which case it isn’t likely to do significant damage to your bank account. However, you might feel more comfortable working with the same physician throughout the procedure and recovery.

Tax Savings
Many patients find that medical tourism opens a wealth of possibilities in terms of tax savings, which is something you should consider. Talk to your CPA or tax preparer and ask about what types of tax savings you might receive as a result of medical travel. In order to claim any deductions, you’ll have to keep careful records of your entire trip, including receipts from hotels and transportation.

Documentation is the key to successful medical travel, so you might consider purchasing a file box and a notebook for recording expenses during your treatment overseas. This will allow you to keep everything together as you move from airport to hotel to hospital and back to hotel, and you won’t have to worry about losing anything on your return trip home. It is also a good idea to discuss potential tax savings with your tax preparer before you leave, rather than when you return home.

Next article: Medical Travel: Safety First