How to Save Money on Health Care by Heading Out of the Country

Medical Tourism May Offer Great Value

Medical Procedures Cheaper Outside US
Medical Tourism May Offer More for Your Health. Ariel Skelley Blend Images Getty Images

I live in Phoenix, Arizona. We are only a few hours from Mexico. It is normal for me to talk to friends or clients who have recently traveled to Mexico for dental work, perhaps to see a dermatologist, or sometimes for cosmetic work (yes, even plastic surgery). This is an example of a growing trend referred to as medical tourism; people traveling outside their home country to get medical services.

Is Medical Care Outside the U.S. Safe?

To those of you who don’t live near the border it may seem strange, and even dangerous, to seek medical services outside the country. People do it because they can obtain medical services at a fraction of the cost they would pay in the United States. And, those who travel outside their country for medical services also know that they can find medical care quality abroad that is just as safe as it would be if they stayed home.

When considering safety, keep in mind, many medical professionals who live outside the U.S. traveled to the U.S. for school and training. And paying more at home doesn’t always equate to better quality care. According to health care rankings, U.S. provided health care is not at the top of the list.

If you’re concerned about quality of care do a bit of research on U.S. citizens who retire abroad. They have certainly found affordable top quality care in their new locations.

In retirement they have also found alternative ways to pay for this care as Medicare doesn’t cover this care when you live abroad.

Bottom line: If you can get equivalent care at a lower cost, why wouldn’t you consider it?

Medical Tourism Costs

Of course if you are not a short drive from the border you have to factor in additional travel costs to determine if your medical costs can actually be reduced by seeking services elsewhere.

Some people combine a vacation with their medical treatments, and in many cases still pay less than the price of the medical treatment alone when compared to having it done in their home city. Thus the term “medical tourism”.

Example: one of my financial planning clients is a former international pilot who worked for a major airline. Traveling abroad was a routine part of his job and while still working he started to seek medical services abroad. Now that he is retired, he continues this practice with an annual vacation to Thailand complete with a stop at the Bumrungrad International Hospital. He said he gets a complete check-up, all his dental work done, and a two week vacation, all for less than he would pay for only the dental work in the United States.

Considering the habits of my friends and clients I guess it should be no surprise that Thailand and Mexico are both listed as one of the Top Dental Tourism Destinations.

If you enjoy traveling perhaps medical tourism would be an efficient choice for you that would allow you to get affordable care.

How Do You Go About It?

Traveling outside the U.S. for medical care is certainly not risk-free. It takes far more planning than a drive across town.

You’ll need to spend time researching your options.