Yes, we were once the hip generation — and we’re still pretty hip, if you ask me — but now many of us baby boomers are in the market for hip replacements. Not to mention knee replacements, heart bypasses, various forms of cosmetic surgery, and a host of other major medical procedures.
Alas, it goes with the territory of getting a little older, a little wizened, but…still wanting to remain as active and vibrant as possible for as long as possible.
And that’s where medical tourism comes in. In yesterday’s post I talked about the growth of medical tourism — traveling to other countries to have surgeries and other medical procedures done at a small fraction of what they would cost in the United States. And, as a byproduct of that less expensive bypass or replacement, offering a chance to see some exotic parts of the world to boot.
Consider this: a typical heart bypass in the U.S. costs an average of $144,000; in Israel, it will run you $27,500. A hip replacement in the U.S. costs about $50,000 on average; in India, you’ll pay more like $7,000. Need dental implants? In the U.S., those will average about $2,800 per tooth; in Costa Rica, you’ll be charged about a third of that.
Of course, before embarking on any medical tourism trip, you’ll want to know that you’ll get the best possible care at an accredited facility overseas.
The Joint Commission of the United States, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, also has an international arm that provides information on hundreds of accredited hospitals and other health care facilities around the world. These facilities all have to meet rigorous standards to achieve certification.
For instance, I checked under “India” and found 21 accredited facilities; Thailand, 46; Singapore, 22; Mexico, seven; Israel, 13; Jordan, 12; Malaysia, nine — with many other countries around the world listed.
Alternatively, travelers could turn to the Medical Travel Quality Alliance to see their list of the “World’s (Ten) Best Hospitals for Medical Tourists.”
These include facilities in Malaysia, Germany, Lebanon, India, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey and Singapore — all considered to deliver the highest quality of care. The MTQA website is a gold mine of information on this topic in general, as is the website medicaltourism.com.
While we’re on the subject of safety, I should note that long airplane flights do come with certain health risks, most notably blood clots that can form in the legs (known as deep vein thrombosis) during long periods of sitting in the same spot — resulting, possibly, in life-threatening pulmonary embolisms.
The risks rise with advancing age (40-plus) along with coronary heart disease and recent injuries or surgeries — especially ones that leave you immobile — so travelers should weigh those risks against the benefits of seeking treatment abroad. Moving around (if possible) and drinking water during a long flight can help ward off the dangers, as can tight-fitting compression socks that increase blood flow.
Considering the money one can save getting surgeries overseas, it would seem wise to spend some of the savings on a business class or higher ticket that would allow you to stretch out more than in cramped economy class seating. Avoiding long non-stop flights might also be prudent.
Besides baby boomer medical tourists themselves, tour operators and travel agents can also benefit from the coming medical tourism trend.
Tour operators and travel agents can arrange appropriate pre- and post-surgery lodging and sightseeing opportunities in the countries visited, while also advising on finding safe, accredited medical facilities abroad.
The trend will only grow — the only question is who will recognize the need and fill it.
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