Medical and Dental Vacations: Tourism With A Purpose

by TFB Editors on March 1, 2012

Christine posted this back in September of 2011. Since Travel For Boomers’ readership has grown so much, we felt it was important enough to repost so those of you who didn’t see it then can learn from it now. It will make you think… — K.W.

By Christine Krzyszton

Tired of outrageous medical costs? Need to have surgery but you have no insurance? Putting off necessary dental work because you can’t afford it?

Let’s face it, getting older means we Baby Boomers might have a few health problems here and there. It’s inevitable. But with the high cost of medical care in the United States, many people our age are seeking care in other countries.

What if you could get the procedures you need done for a fraction of the cost and sneak in a vacation for no extra money? Perhaps you could even use your frequent flier miles to reach your medical/dental vacation destination and save even more!

It’s all about getting good value. So the next time you take that vacation to Cancun, maybe you should consider a trip to the dentist while you’re there. Or perhaps head to Asia for a thorough physical or that little eye procedure your medical insurance won’t cover.

Many of the world’s best hospitals are not in the United States. You can get high-quality affordable procedures done other places in the world.

Medical and dental tourism is on the rise. Because of the high cost of these procedures in the U.S., it is estimated that over 500,000 U.S. citizens a year (USA Today) seek treatment in a foreign country. Some areas of the world have even developed special medical vacation packages to attract those looking for a great deal and a vacation all in one.

One such city is Budapest, Hungary. Budapest is known for its history and beautiful location on the Danube River. It’s also known all over the world as one of the best places to have affordable dental work done. The Europeans already know this quite well and, as a result, Budapest and the surrounding area have thrived in dental tourism. Prices run as much as 60 percent less than in the U.S. and often include special services, such as transportation to and from your hotel, discounts on your lodging, spa services, and even city tours. Many dentists there speak English and are educated in Europe and even the U.S.

Mexico is another place where Americans can go to get affordable dental work by U.S. trained dentists. My son recently had extensive work done near Cabo San Lucas and paid a fraction of what he would have in the U.S. We figured it was about a third of what it would have cost here. His English-speaking dentist was trained in the U.S. and there were no communication problems at all. He was extremely pleased. Here are some examples of comparable costs:

Extractions: $15 (Thailand)
Porcelain crowns: $80 (India)
Fillings $20 (Mexico)
Cleaning $18 (Mexico)
Root canal $60 (Hungary)
Complete dentures $500-700 (Thailand)

You can find additional estimates at www.worldental.org. You can also find reviews and articles on dental tourism at the following web sites: www.internationalliving.com, www.escapeartist.com, and www.tripadvisor.com. Or just type “dental tourism” into your favorite search engine.

A patient room in the Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Nice!

If you’re looking for the perfect mix of top quality medical care and good value, try the world acclaimed Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. (Pronounced Bahm-roong-RAHT, bumrungrad means “care for the people.”) This hospital was actually featured on “60 Minutes.” It’s certified by the Joint Commission International and, according to its web site, it has 19 operating theaters, a Level III neo-natal unit, over 700 nurses and 945 doctors, and 55 specialties providing everything from cardiac surgery to plastic surgery and a wellness/anti-aging center. The hospital also provides hair transplantation, reconstructive surgery, and skin treatments.

Or consider an annual physical at the BNH Hospital, also Bangkok. It’s a world class and internationally accredited hospital (JCI). A full executive-type physical includes an eye/ear/throat scan, chest x-ray, ultrasounds, pelvic/PAP test, mammogram and ultrasound of the breast, prostate exam, 18 lab tests, EKG and complete cardiovascular screening, a written report, and a meal. A similar package in the U.S. could run as much as $5000. In Thailand, it’s less than $600. BNH has additional annual physical packages starting at $80. Check the website for pricing and services.

Are there downsides to getting surgery or dental care outside of the U.S.? One may be follow-up care. If you can stay in your country of choice and receive it there, great. But if you have to come home right after the surgery, you’ll need to depend on local follow-up care. However, if you need surgery and don’t have insurance, there may be few alternatives. You can get the surgery you need plus a vacation for about a third of what you would spend in the U.S.

Another challenge, in addition to getting the proper follow-up care, is the difficulty of recovering from surgery so far from home. Taking a family member or friend with you may be difficult.

Regardless of these challenges, now you know that there are alternatives to spending thousands more than necessary for quality medical and dental care.

Many websites offer medical and dental tourism packages. If you do consider it, be sure to do your research. I sent emails to the providers I was considering and received several replies that included additional information and references to assist me in making my decision. Here are a few, although I do not endorse any of them specifically:

www.medretreat.com
www.medicaltourism.com
www.medicalnomad.com
www.drtooth.hu/dental_tourism.html
www.amazing-thailand.com

You may also want to read The Huffington Post’s recent story “Is Jet Set Surgery The New Luxury Travel Trend?”

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