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What Is Medical Tourism, and is It Meant for You?

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Medical bills are one of the leading causes of debts in the U.S. Approximately 79 million Americans have medical debt or are struggling to pay their medical bills in time. This is about 24% of the overall population. This struggle has become integrated into the culture as the average American experiences nine surgeries in their lifetime (most of which aren’t life-threatening). Furthermore, about 20 million surgeries happen every year in the US alone, accounting for billions of dollars spent by many hard-working Americans.

These surgeries and treatment can cost between $2,500 (e.g., dental implant) to a staggering $170,000 (e.g., heart valve replacement). As well all know, the lifestyle of many Americans can’t pay for the most basic surgeries in the country. This is why many find ways to reduce their medical cost—one of the more profound and common ways of doing this through medical tourism.

What is Medical Tourism?

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Medical tourism is the act of going into another country for cheaper and more accessible medical care. It is already well-known to the entire world that medical treatments and procedures in the US can be quite expensive when compared to other countries. About 300,000 Americans do medical tourism every year, and there are varying reasons for this. Here are some of them.

American Currency

One of the main reasons Americans look for surgery in other countries is that the American currency is worth more abroad than in the US. Conversion can lead to money saved. For example, if you’re looking to get an x-ray from an advanced medical tool like C-Arm imaging equipment, it can be so much cheaper to do it in another country. But you wouldn’t buy a ticket just for an x-ray.

You’re most likely to get the needed treatment for your condition as well. So this leads you to get the overall package for a much lower price. It’s the power of foreign exchange and can easily save you thousands of dollars depending on the kind of surgery you need.


Sometimes, it’s not medical cost that is in mind (although this is primarily the reason why) but rather specialization. Your doctor might not have the experience and specialization needed to do the treatment or surgery for your disease or illness, and it might need someone else to do this. Most of the time, they’ll refer you to another doctor from another state. But sometimes, they might refer you to a considerably seasoned and experienced doctor from another country. This can be quite costly but well worth it. In some situations, a doctor may even suggest the procedure to be done in another country, just because of how expensive it might be in the US. There are many reasons for referrals, but these are some of the reasons why.


The reason might not be entirely for the surgery itself but also for leisure. Some minor surgeries are ridiculously cheap in other countries that some American families might do it and decide that they can also go on a vacation. It’s convenient, much cheaper than waiting for another opportunity to come, and helpful for the individual getting the surgery in that particular country.


As you have read, there are many benefits to medical tourism. However, there are also some disadvantages as well.

Inferior Medical Equipment and Procedures

For the sake of affordability, some Americans get their needed surgeries in countries that offer the treatment for the lowest price. Although these hospitals are well-known in their country, they might have outdated equipment for the surgery. They might also be doing an old procedure that leads to more complications if done wrongly. This can be detrimental to your health, so consider doing your research before getting treatments in other countries.

Being Far Away From Your Home

When getting major surgery in another country, you might have to spend weeks, maybe even months, to recover from the surgery. This forces you to recover in a foreign country, all alone. This can lead to depression in many patients, maybe even anxiety. It also makes it hard for you to get back to the comfort of your home whenever you can.

Language Barrier

When you go to far-flung countries for medical procedures, there is a chance that some of their personnel have a hard time speaking English and might not be able to converse with you very well. This can lead to complications in explaining the procedures and what you need to do to prepare for them. This is why you should contact the healthcare provider months before you go to the country to ensure that they understand the procedure you need beforehand.

Medical tourism is increasing every year as the prices for medical procedures start to skyrocket to the point that many health insurance companies can’t provide it. However, before you do this, ensure that you are ready for such a trip. Consult your doctor in the US and ask them if it is worth doing medical tourism for the procedure. If they give you the green light, make sure you do your research, and contact the healthcare provider from another country months before so that you can prepare yourself for such an undertaking.

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