Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Medical tourism

Medical tourism is something that many Americans initially squirm at the thought of. Why go to a developing country for medical treatment – you might ask?

Run the numbers.

Let me offer a few real examples from our experience.

Some years ago Luiz and I went to Thailand. To our surprise and dismay he had a dental abscess flare up the second day we were in the country. If you have been to Thailand you know that the script for their language bares no resemblance to the Roman script we are accustomed to.

We located a dentist because she had a graphic drawing of a tooth on the storefront glass of her office. We went in, taking off our shoes at the door, hoping for the best. After a short wait the dentist saw Luiz, and she spoke some English. She diagnosed his situation as a growing abscess needing a root canal, but it could be treated in the short run with antibiotics. She gave him some antibiotics – and charged him nothing for the consult or the meds – NOTHING (she gave him the pills!). She just wished him well and told him to see his dentist when he got back home. **Never in the United States**  [It's worth noting that dental care in Thailand is ranked among the best in the world.]

On another occasion, in Brazil, Luiz had heart palpitations and I insisted that he see a cardiologist. He went to see a private cardiologist – no insurance – and was seen for a consult, then referred to a full lab work-up, then seen again for a follow up consult with the cardiologist. Full cost was R$200. (That would be about US$120.) Can you imagine!? A private cardiologist! Here, follow-up consults are considered a part of the original visit, so there is no charge.

OK – last example: Luiz recently needed a root canal and crown. We were living in San Francisco and covered by my top-shelf dental insurance. We ran the numbers. It was cheaper for Luiz to fly to Brazil, have the root canal and get the crown, spend a couple weeks vacationing and return, than it was to pay THE DEDUCTIBLE for our fancy dental insurance in San Francisco.

What’s up with that?

Let me be clear- the quality of dental care here is completely comparable to the US.

Some things I miss about living in the US – fearing the cost of health/dental care is not one of them.

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