Medical tourism among Americans has grown increasingly popular as the cost of many healthcare services in the U.S rises. With the cost savings that come with traveling to other countries for certain medical procedures, a handful of American insurance companies are even encouraging the practice among their members by covering travel and treatment costs, according to The Fiscal Times.
In 2015, the medical tourism market was valued at about $439 billion, and it is projected to increase by 25 percent each year over the next decade, according to a report by Visa and Oxford Economics, The Fiscal Times reported. In 2016, an estimated 1.4 million Americans will have a medical procedure performed in another country.
Here are three things to know about medical tourism, according to the report.
1. Some common procedures, such as a knee replacement, cost significantly less in other countries than in the U.S. Knee replacements in the U.S. range from $35,000 to $60,000. In comparison, they cost less than $23,000 in Costa Rica or India, including airfare and lodging for the patient and a companion, according to Indus Health. Lower physician salaries and less expensive medical malpractice insurance generally account for the price difference.
2. Serious risks exist. While it’s possible to receive high-quality care abroad, standard safety practices in U.S. hospitals may not be used in other countries. The CDC warns against counterfeit medications or blood that hasn’t undergone the same screening as it would in the U.S., for example. Additionally, language barriers and culture shock could pose barriers to care, and jet lag could leave you weaker before surgery and slow your recovery at home, according to the report.
3. Medical tourists must plan for complications. If a patient’s traditional insurance won’t cover the cost of the trip, one must purchase medical complications insurance, which covers the cost of follow-up care and treatment if complications arise.