By: Kathelyn Hauptman
Those unfamiliar with medical tourism may wonder why a person might travel across the world for elective medical procedures performed by some unknown doctor at a hospital whose name they may not even be able to articulate. The bottom line is money. Plastic surgery prices in the U.S. are cost prohibitive and steadily getting higher. People who would like to have elective surgery but cannot afford to pay the steep prices required by U.S. surgeons will often find names of doctors in a plastic surgery guide that lists foreign doctors who perform surgeries ranging from facelifts to liposuction. Travel expenses and international care, in most cases, turns out to cost less than paying insurance premiums, co-payments, deductibles, accounting for exclusions, caps and out-of-pocket expenses.
Medical tourism actually dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Japanese. However, modern medical tourism began as plastic surgery prices began to rise and Thailand and India started to simultaneously emerge as legitimate medical destinations. Today, Mexico and Costa Rica are listed in the main plastic surgery guide as premiere medical destinations, offering plastic surgery costs that are a fraction of those charged in the U.S.
Brazil, Tunisia, Thailand, Korea and India offer popular procedures such as liposuction and facelifts for sometimes less than half the cost of the same surgeries in the United States. For example, Dr. Manuel Gutierrez Romero, a surgeon in Mexico City, offers facelifts for up to 70% less than prices one would pay in America. Not counting hotel accommodations and transportation, one can expect to spend as little as $1000 for these procedures by a board certified surgeon.
Considerations for surgery abroad should include the cost recovery accommodations and the duration of the trip. It takes longer to undergo surgery in another country, so how much time allowed off work is a realistic thing to consider. The costs of transportation are another. While some surgery centres offer ground transportation to and from the airport, not all of them do. It is advisable to take a companion along to help after the surgery, and this can add a substantial amount to the costs as well.
Popular countries for Medical Tourism
China is home to stem cell research and procedures that are cosmetic in nature. Westerners are traveling to China more frequently in order to get a part of these procedures. This includes face lifts, eye-lid procedures, and many others that include the use of stem cells, which not legal in Western countries.
India has a medical tourism that is quickly growing in popularity. The beautiful country attracts wealthy Westerners and keeps them there with affordable cosmetic procedures. India is an excellent choice since many natives speak English, and those that went to school for medical procedures are well trained. Chennai is a city in India that is considered the capital of advanced research in the country. Hip resurfacing cosmetic procedures are the most popular here. Plastic surgery before and after photos are available to show you how well Indian doctors can do these procedures.
Brazil is easily the top country for getting plastic surgery procedures done for medical tourists. Plastic surgery prices here are much cheaper but the quality of the procedure is relatively the same. Sao Paulo has dozens of accredited hospitals. Unlike other countries where procedures are done in office, Brazil only permits hospital procedures. Nose jobs and breast implants are the top procedures here.
Canada is also a popular and very close destination for those looking for medical treatments outside of the United States. Costs in Canada are up to 60% less than they are in the US. Regulations are also very solid here and procedures are quite safe. Breast augmentation, breast reductions, and liposuction are amongst the most popular procedures performed in Canada.
Costa Rica is quickly gaining medical tourism to their San Jose hospitals that are certified and accredited for safety and professionalism. In fact, WHO (World Health Organization) ranks Costa Rica as the 36th safest country in the world for medical procedures. This is a better ranking than the United States! Tourists to Costa Rica can save between 30% and 70% on cosmetic procedures, including dental work. In fact, dental cosmetic procedures are amongst the most popular.
Cuba is, surprisingly, a top country for medical tourism for Canadians and Americans alike. Medical procedures here are steeply discounted. The popular documentary Sicko has increased the interest in Cuban medical care. Medical Tourism generates income for the poor nation and helps it thrive. Cosmetic procedures are common here, and include the extremely popular breast augmentation surgeries as well as liposuction. There are special hospitals for tourists that come to Cuba for treatment.
Mexico is a close and popular location for medical tourism, and plastic surgery procedures are very common here. Many women travel to Mexico for breast implants and dental cosmetic procedures. Plastic surgery before and after photos show you how well some popular cities in Mexico can handle cosmetic surgery.