Photo: Flickr / Fotos Gov/Ba
Medical tourism has ballooned into a $100 billion industry, and struggling travel agents want to cash in. But is the lure of cheaper treatment and a possible vacation worth the risk to your health? James R. Goldberg, a healthcare executive and author of “The American Medical Money Machine: The Destruction of Healthcare in America and The Rise of Medical Tourism,” isn’t so sure, according to the Houston Chronicle.
“There are no International Treaties which address the safety of patients sent overseas for medical treatment,” he said at a speech in April. “Although the lure of far less expensive care is taking hold as the American medical system continues to deteriorate, medical care provided overseas is completely unregulated.”
Also disconcerting is the fact that certain treatments, such as the popular LAP-BAND surgery which helps patients lose weight, may be safer done in the U.S. than in countries like Turkey and India where the procedure may be unregulated and use outdated equipment.
As Goldberg learned the hard way when his 23-year-old son died during a leg procedure at a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, there’s also the risk of not being covered by insurance—or U.S. attorneys—for medical malpractice. According to JDSupra.com, Goldberg had no legal recourse in the matter “except within the country where (the patient was) damaged,” which would have been incredibly expensive and complicated.
If you’re drawn to medical tourism, keep this in mind: It’s best to speak to your health care provider and doctor first to find out if there are viable alternatives. It may simply be a matter of negotiating a price and repayment plan that works for everyone.
You can also visit your hospital’s website to look for a detailed list of services and estimated upfront rates (“Charge Master“).