100,000 Medical Tourists in a Month

Here in the US, it’s not uncommon to hear of friends or neighbors who
travel to Mexico for dental work because of the good care, but more importantly
the lower cost & cash payment vs fighting with insurance companies.

It appears that we’re not the only ones to see a difference in costs between
our country & a neighbor. Chileans are traveling to Peru for medical care, and
in spite of being charged a higher rate because of being foreigners, it’s still
less than the cost in Chile.

Via Cronica Viva (Bing Translate)

100,000 Medical Tourists in a Month

So far this year, more than 100,000 Chilean citizens were treated by doctors
of the Metropolitan system of solidarity (Sisol), at its headquarters in the Tacna region, highlighting a fast attention and quality, as well as low costs in their fees.

“Only between January and August, a total of 104,198 Chileans crossed the border to attend in the Sisol Tacna. This figure is approaching 184,160 Chileans that did the same thing during the year 2013, where also attended to 13 people of Magellan and 45 from the region of La Araucanía”, reported the Sisol health services management.

The institution explained that the greatest demand is in dentistry, ophthalmology, cardiology and general medicine services. “It is so close to 40 per cent of monthly attentions Sisol Tacna records are Chilean citizens”, they said.

The cost of care, despite having a rate differential for foreigners is still cheaper and more attractive than in Chile.

In the year 2013 the attentions to foreigners in this hospital reached the 469,177,of which 183,446 correspond to regions such as Arica, Chilean citizens (131,141), Iquique (31,121) and Antofagasta (18,866).

Original article here. (Spanish)

It’s interesting to note that this is just one small region of Peru. As medical costs continue to rise much faster than the rate of inflation here in the US, it is expected that medical tourism will continue to grow.

“Medical tourism” refers to traveling to another country for medical care. Current estimates are that up to 750,000 US residents travel abroad for care each year. (Source CDC.)

With the cost of health insurance and hospital stays increasing while deductibles are also rising, the tremendous cost differences will cause many employers & insurance companies to consider “outsourcing” many costly but typically uncomplicated surgeries to places such as Thailand or India. Oftentimes, the cost savings are so great that even with the extra travel costs it’s still a 60-80% savings.

Some specialties that are currently done well in other locations for much lower costs are dentistry, spinal surgeries, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, fertility & reproductive health, ophthalmology, oncology, and cosmetic or reconstructive surgery.

There can be horror stories, and one should consider language differences, post operative recovery times etc, but with careful research & planning the savings can be large.

There are several organizations working to review and accredit more facilities outside of the US & help to provide an easier, more transparent, and reliable network of high quality providers with the latest techniques and equipment.

So, from Peru to the US, and the Persian Gulf to India, worldwide travel for medical reasons is increasing. As the population ages it will likely grow for the foreseeable future as price differences are arbitraged, much as outsourcing has sent manufacturing & services to lower cost locations. Time to learn Thai?

Machu Picchu, Peru

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