Industry News

Medical Tourism Helps Americans Shoulder Costs of Surgery

Industry News

As Americans pack their bags for end-of-summer plans, a retired boilermaker from Maine is more than happy to shoulder the cost of a vacation overseas.

Many Americans, like Jeff Wheeler, are spending summer vacations overseas, taking advantage of inexpensive medical tourism procedures.

Jeff Wheeler is in the middle of a three-week trip to Southeast Asia, where he will travel to Vietnam to explore Hanoi, Da Nang and the tunnels of Chi Chi before returning to Thailand to complete shoulder replacement surgery and correct an old work injury.

Might as well have a look around while I'm there, Wheeler told the Bangor Daily News before leaving for Bangkok and a preliminary CT scan. I like to travel.

Surgery at Fraction of Cost

A visit to the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia is planned between shoulder surgery in Singapore.
A visit to the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia is planned between shoulder surgery in Thailand.

Shoulder replacement overseas will cost Wheeler roughly $9,000, about 80 percent less than the $130,000 a Massachusetts hospital had quoted him for repairs and more than enough in savings to cover travel and sightseeing expenses for exotic excursions like those to the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia.

Fueled by rising healthcare costs and desperate to diffuse costly out-of-pocket payments, an increasing number of Americans even those fortunate to have insurance are giving medical tourism opportunities a second look.

Overwhelming Response in NY Times

Consider the response generated by a New York Times feature — In Need of a New Hip, but Priced Out of the U.S — about an American who went to Belgium to have his hip replaced because his insurer in the United States would not cover the procedure.

Hundreds of readers said they would follow The Growing Popularity of Having Surgery Overseas, a second article which featured comments from Jonathan Edelheit, CEO of the Medical Tourism Association and president of the Healthcare Reform Center and Policy Institute.

The healthcare market has gone global, said Renèe-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association, which builds consumer awareness of international healthcare options through outreach efforts in the United States and across the globe. Patients are coming to realize that traveling to countries all over the world for procedures that they need now does not mean they have to sacrifice quality in the very least.

Stephano said hospitals and related healthcare facilities abroad are designed to cater to American patents, are staffed by Western-trained doctors and are filled with English-speaking staff. The attraction has caught the eye of U.S. employers, especially companies which self-fund their healthcare insurance benefits and can waive co-pays for employees who opt for less expensive care abroad.

If all goes well for Wheeler, who hopes the surgery will enable him to troll lobster without pain off his recreational boat near Westport Island, he will return to Thailand for surgery on his other shoulder.

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