What is Medical Tourism?
Healthcare costs in the US and other developed countries continue to soar and a great number of people still remain underinsured or uninsured. With the quality of treatment overseas improving drastically over the past decade, medical tourism, i.e. getting treatment abroad, is often a far more financially viable proposition than domestic medical services. Apart from this, cosmetic and dental surgeries and treatments are often not covered by medical insurance. Many countries have developed a niche industry serving patients in need of these services. Medical tourists across the world spend about USD 150 billion each year.
Top Medical Tourism Destinations
India is the undisputed crown jewel among medical tourism destinations of the world. The medical tourism industry in the country is expected to have generated about USD 3.9 billion in the year 2014. The country’s main cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, and Bangalore are likely to receive about 5 million medical tourists in the year 2016. About 1.2 million of these tourists are expected to be from the US, the UK, and Canada while the rest from other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Middle East. While the cosmetic surgery industry in India is still nascent, the country is very popular for organ transplants, cardiac surgery and treatment, oncological treatments, and even fertility treatments. Not only are medical facilities in the country highly advanced, the costs are about a 10th of that in the US.
Cost of heart bypass without insurance in the USA is USD 140,000, in India – USD 7,000.
Singapore has built up a considerable reputation for high quality medical care facilities in the global market. It is not surprising then, that about 5,00,000 to 6,00,000 medical tourists travel to Singapore each year and undergo treatment and/or surgery. Singapore is known for its specialities such as gastroenterology, cardiology, organ transplants, and orthopedics. The medical tourism industry in Singapore is estimated to be about USD 580 million. In fact, the Singapore Tourism Board interacts closely with medical health care providers in the country to promote medical tourism in the country.
Cost of replacing a heart valve without insurance in the USA is USD 160,000, in Singapore – USD 12,500.
Along with India and Singapore, Thailand is among the top countries to receive medical tourists and patients each year. These three countries together account for about 89 percent of medical tourists from the western nations. In 2013, some 1.2 million patients visited Thailand for medical treatment and surgery, a considerable rise from 500,000 medical tourists in 2010. According to 2013 reports, the health and wellness industry generated about USD 997 million for the country. Thailand is best known for its cosmetic surgeries, facial and body restructuring, and gender reassignment operations. Thailand is increasing in popularity as hotels and other allied costs are far less than Singapore.
Cost of a nose job without insurance in the USA is USD 4,694, in Thailand – USD 850.
Mexico’s greatest advantage as a medical tourism destination is its proximity to the US. Each year about 50,000 Americans head over to Mexico only to get their dental surgeries. About half million medical tourists come to Mexico every year, it is estimated. Many of them go in for fat reduction treatments and surgeries. Apart from the US, Mexico also receives a number of visitors from other North and South American countries.
Cost of a root canal surgery (without crown) without insurance in the USA is USD 1000, in Mexico – USD 250.
Brazil’s obsession with beauty makes it one of the favorite cosmetic surgery destinations of the world. The country is believed to have about 4500 licensed cosmetic surgeons – a testimony to its booming business. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the two centers for quality medical treatment in the country. About 180,000 patients and medical tourists visit Brazil each year. Most of these patients arrive from nearby countries such as Angola, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Uruguay. Devaluation of the Brazilian Real (BRL) has also ensured a steady influx of American patients. Cost of treatment and cosmetic surgeries in Brazil, however, may vary depending on the repute of the facility you opt for.
Cost of a face-lift without insurance in the USA is USD 6550, in Brazil – USD 4200.
Following on the footsteps of Thailand and Singapore, Malaysia has also developed excellent medical and healthcare facilities. This erstwhile British colony is easy to travel to and one of the best places to combine medical treatment with a long rejuvenating holiday. In fact, the cost of medical treatment is so low in Malaysia that Singaporeans themselves find it easier to cross the border and get their dental and other surgeries done in Malaysia. In 2014, Malaysia welcomed about 882,000 foreign patients.
Cost of a hip replacement surgery without insurance in the USA is USD 40300, in Malaysia – USD 9000.
Just as Asia seems to have become the go-to destination for underinsured or uninsured Americans, Hungary seems to have become the favorite destination for Europeans wanting high-quality but inexpensive medical treatment. Hungary specializes in dental treatment, surgeries, and in reconstructive surgeries. While Europeans, mostly from neighboring countries such as Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine are pouring in for simple dental procedures, patients from Africa seem headed to Hungary for more complex treatments including complete restructuring, implants, and cleft palate reconstruction.
Cost of a tonsillectomy surgery without insurance in the USA is USD 3000, while in Hungary it is USD 1000.
Turkey is one of the best tourist destinations of the world. It is ranked 6th among the world’s favorite tourist places. Add to this the high-quality medical facilities developed by the nation and it is no surprise that over 700,000 patients and medical tourists visited the country in 2014. While most of them come from the Middle East and even other Asian countries, there has been an increase in the number of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans visiting Turkey. The country specializes in fertility treatments, cosmetic surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgeries, and organ transplants.
Cost of a IVF (single cycle) without insurance in the USA is USD 12,000, while in Turkey it is USD 2,000.
Taiwan has always been focused on wellness and healing. The nation has been undergoing through a major transition, though. From being a great spa and massage and Chinese healing destination, Taiwan has developed into a modern medical treatment and facilities hub. Taipei alone welcomes over 10,000 patients each year. Visitors from Japan and China form bulk of the market but in recent times more patients from the US, UK, and other nations are visiting Taiwan. Taiwan specializes in weight loss surgery, cosmetic surgery, neurosciences, oncology, and orthopedics.
The average annual cost of treating a person with Schizophrenia in the USA is USD 20000, while in Taiwan it is USD 2,144.
Costa Rica is no longer merely an idyllic seaside destination for Americans. It boasts of one of the best health care systems in the world – better than even the US. In 2011, Costa Rica was the preferred destination visited by about 48,000 medical tourists mostly from neighboring Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras, apart from the US and Canada. Costa Rica specialises in bariatric surgery, obesity and diabetes treatment and orthopedics. It also provides exclusive “recovery retreats”, specialized hotels and retreats that care for recuperating patients.
Cost of a gastric bypass surgery without insurance in the USA is USD 25000, while in Costa Rica it is USD 12500.