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Traveling for a Cure
by Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer
In the very olden days, people
traveled to “take cures” at the Swiss Alps and other
locales such as tuberculosis sanatoriums. Traveling to
receive treatment, even several weeks to convalesce at
the beach, was often a first choice option. Our current
society, defined by insurance diagnosis codes and
restrictions on coverage, may contribute to moving us
toward “med tourism” as an alternative to being turned
down for needed care.
Individuals who travel to other countries for less
expensive (and some say better) treatment, elective or
not, are finding they can sightsee while they have laser
eye surgery. Healthcare consumers evaluate destination,
quality of care and cost. This is a big change from
being forced to obtain care because insurance assigns
A six thousand dollar “nose job” in the United States
may be as little as one third the cost in South America.
The added bonus of travel and international caretaking
(paid for by the savings in medical prices) are
alluring. Depending on the type of surgery, there are
tours and special treatments (massage, spa and other
Medical tourists are not limited to elective procedures.
Alternative options exist for bone and joint surgery and
heart and vascular repair to name a few. There may be
shorter wait times for a doctor with expertise in the
field to become available for a procedure, too.
A down side to the international aspect is when a given
country is short on aftercare help. This may not appear
to be an issue, but when doctors are the only ones
managing respirators, having a knowledgeable technician
is important. Nursing staff may be at par, and rendering
these services, so it’s best to research this aspect as
well. Many surgeries require post-op physical therapy.
Asking who handles it (nursing or specialty therapists)
is better done before the plane ticket is purchased.
Don’t always rely on the “booking agent” and take the
time to look into the matter.
David Hancock, author of The Complete Medical Tourist,
compiled a listing of prices and perks for his book. He
began researching after his own medical tourism
experience and now has his own website.
The medical tourist experience will vary from one person
to another, and some companies specialize in helping the
individual customize their experience. Culture shock is
an important factor in assessing whether it is right for
the individual. It may seem like a fantastic deal where
the money is concerned, but other factors apply. How
well do you travel as a tourist in the next state, or
even county? If you get frustrated just finding a pack
of antacids, or become irritated with “slower” people
living in some areas, then international travel may not
be for you. The price may be much higher when it comes
to stress affecting your healing process.