Even if you have good health insurance, an expensive medical procedure can destroy your bank account. Unfortunately, medical insurers consider many procedures elective, which means you foot the entire bill yourself. So increasingly more consumers are choosing to go overseas for treatment. Because medical tourism costs can be much, much lower than healthcare at home.
What Is Medical Tourism?
"Medical tourism" simply means visiting another country to undergo a health-related procedure. Americans can visit another county with good, high quality medical care - and often save tens of thousands of dollars. Recovery centers in other countries can be more like spas than hospitals. And after recovery, patients may get to do some sightseeing.
How Much Can You Save With Medical Tourism?
You can save a lot of money, depending on the procedure and country. According to Medical Tourism Magazine, approximately 20 million people travel across the globe every year to receive healthcare services, spending an average of $3,410 per visit. The table below shows the magazine's estimate of common medical procedures in the US and abroad:
Here is a list of most common procedures that Americans go overseas to get, according to the Journal of American Medicine:
- Cosmetic surgery
- Cardiac conditions
- In vitro fertility (IVF) treatments
- Weight loss
- Liver, kidney transplants
- Spine surgery
Yes, overseas medical treatment is popular with Americans, and many countries offer safe and inexpensive versions of what you can undergo here. However, you're planning an overseas trip as well as a financial decision and medical option. These all require careful consideration - your health and financial well-being are at stake, so don't be rash or rushed. And while weighing your healthcare options, you may want to consider a personal loan for medical tourism.
Which Country Is best for Medical Tourism?
Believe it or not, finding a personal loan for medical tourism is often the easiest piece of this puzzle. The hardest is choosing a country and lining up your doctor. According to the Journal of American Medicine, these are the most common countries for medical tourism:
- Costa Rica
- South Korea
The right country, doctor and facility for you depend on your procedure, resources and traveling preferences. The CDC says that flying after certain surgeries, for instance, can increase your risk of blood clots.
The CDC also recommends, "Check the qualifications of the health care providers who will be doing the procedure and the credentials of the facility where the procedure will be done. Remember that foreign standards for health care providers and facilities may be different from those of the United States.
"Accrediting groups, including Joint Commission International, DNV International Accreditation for Hospitals, and the International Society for Quality in Healthcare, have lists of standards that facilities need to meet to be accredited."
If you want to see if a facility has passed muster with the HCI, you can find out at JointCommsssionInternational.org.
How to Plan Medical Tourism
Plenty of people love to travel and enjoy vacation planning. They do a lot of research online and make phone calls and send emails. If you're not one of those people, you could contact a health travel planner. There are websites like Patients Beyond Borders that offer information for medical tourists.
Next, see if you can turn this surgical procedure into an actual vacation. If you can get a vacation out of it and save a lot of money on a medical procedure, that's a bonus. Many medical facilities offer recovery services that may range from a basic room to an all-inclusive resort, depending on what you want to pay. Often, even the top-tier option is surprisingly cheap.
Cost of Medical Tourism: How Much Should You Borrow?
You may not need money as much as you think. While rare, some employers and insurers do cover medical tourism costs. Especially if it's not an elective procedure. It can't hurt to ask before you start shopping for personal loans.
This table shows the lowest costs of common procedures, courtesy of Medical Tourism Magazine:
|Dental Implant||Costa Rica||$800|
When planning your trip, don't forget to consider all related expenses. Will you need to go back to the same hospital for a follow up visit? That may not matter if it's a couple days later - you can make it part of your vacation. If you need to follow up a month or two later, that may be another story. And if something goes wrong, you may not have the same legal recourse that you do in the US.
Plan to have access to extra money just in case.
Why Pay for Medical Tourism With a Personal Loan?
If you need or really want a procedure overseas, you can't have the provider bill your insurer. You need to pay upfront. And some conditions become more dangerous or painful over time.
Borrowing allows you to take care of your issue now if you don't have the ready cash. It's almost certainly cheaper than credit cards, and most personal loan interest rates are fixed. Suppose you need a knee replacement ($40,000 in the US) and decide that nearby Mexico is a good option for you ($12,000). How much will it cost to finance it?
That depends on your interest rate and loan term. Personal loan rates in general run about 7% lower than those of similar credit cards as of this writing. The chart below gives you an idea.
|Monthly Payments for 5 Years by Loan Amount|
Medical Tourism Is a Personal Decision
Getting dental work in Belize may be the most fun thing ever. (At least, diving in the famous Blue Hole or sunning on the beach might be.) Having a hip replaced thousands of miles away from home may be another story. But it's worth doing some digging and trying to find out if getting an operation in another country is feasible and if you can obtain a personal loan for medical tourism.
If you can find a reasonable way to pay for medical care that you need, and at the same time include a once-in-a-lifetime trip, your hernia operation may just be the best thing that ever happened to you. Or not. Travel isn't everyone's great joy, and in that case, you need to decide if that savings are worth the hassle.
How to Find the Best Personal Loan for Medical Tourism
Personal loan interest rates from mainstream and P2P lenders range from under 6% to about 36%. Your rate depends on your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, loan amount and term. You can influence what you pay by how aggressively you shop for a personal loan. Here's how to find your best deal on a personal loan:
- Get your credit report and score
- Contact several personal loan providers (that's easy to do here at MoneyRates)
- Provide the same information to each competing lender
- Choose the best deal and apply (you can usually do this online)
- If approved, your loan should fund in a few days
Medical procedures performed out of the US can save you a lot of money. And that can make borrowing with a personal loan a smart idea.