Ah, there’s nothing like a relaxing vacation to an exotic foreign country. Lounging on the beach, seeing the local sights, getting expensive medical procedures — wait, what? Although getting a hip replaced or having a cosmetic surgery might not sound like a fun vacation activity, “medical tourism” is becoming more common by the day.
Medical tourism is the phrase used to describe traveling outside the United States to access medical procedures at a lower cost. In fact, some say you can save up to 70% on comparable procedures. With oral healthcare costs up to half a trillion dollars a year, it’s no wonder people are looking for ways to save. Experts predict that nearly 700,000 people will be seeking medical care in Mexico by the year 2020.
You Get What You Pay For
Unfortunately, like most things that sound too good to be true, medical tourism isn’t quite what it seems. Although it might look like you’re saving money, the other risks to medical tourism could result in hidden costs.
For example, it’s important to remember that not every country has the same health and safety standards that American medical facilities have. It’s like the dramatic video demonstrating the differences in crash safety regulations between the US and Mexico. Before the crash, both cars seem fine, but after the crash the differences are obvious.
Medical procedures are voluntary, controlled crashes for your body. You won’t see the differences in regulations beforehand, but after the fact they may become painfully clear. The CDC warns that reuse or improper cleaning of needles or tools could result in the spread of bacteria and even diseases like hepatitis or HIV. Other countries may not have the same regulation on blood for use in transfusions, resulting in unscreened blood that could lead to serious infection. Plus, if you contract a local disease during medical tourism and bring it back to the United States, it could present a major public health risk.
Sometimes medications in the United States seem to cost an arm and a leg. But those cheaper versions from Mexico might not be what they seem. American law enforcement agencies have suggested that perhaps as many as one in four medications prescribed in Mexico is counterfeit or impure.
Additionally, for major procedures, it’s important to have access to your doctor or dentist for follow-up care. But if your provider is in another country, it may be difficult or impossible to reach them for guidance if you experience side effects or complications.
And of course, the language barrier can present a significantly higher risk of miscommunication between doctor or dentist and patient. This could affect everything from the procedure itself, to follow-up care, to instructions for medication.
Leave Medical Tourism Out of Your Vacation
Of course, with such a long list of things that could go wrong, perhaps the scariest risk is that no matter what sort of malpractice or negligence you may experience during your medical tourism experience, you have no legal recourse. If you are provided with bad treatment or bad medication, you have no way to hold the provider accountable for it.
On the surface, medical tourism can look like a major money saver. But when you examine the risks closely, they heavily outweigh the benefits. After all — your health is priceless.
If you’re concerned about the cost of a dental procedure, talk to your dentist. Dr. Rod Strober is happy to consult with you about how to suit the treatment you need to your budget. Call at (619) 299-5925 or contact us online to set up an appointment to discuss how you can get safe, affordable dental care right here in the United States.