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Medical Tourism Case Studies & Feedback

Updated: Feb 15

The New York Times wrote an article in 2021 about Medical Tourism. It highlights excellent Case Studies and comments about people’s experiences. You can read the full article here.

By Ceylan Yeginsu

Jan. 19, 2021


Case Study- Melissa Jackson

On a cold February morning last year, as she lay curled up in a fetal position on her kitchen floor, Melissa Jackson called her manager at a New Jersey beauty salon to ask for some unpaid time off.


It was the sixth consecutive week that the 39-year-old beauty technician could not work full-time because of the debilitating pain in her pelvis caused by endometriosis, a chronic condition triggered by the growth of uterine tissue outside of the uterus. As her symptoms worsened, she started exploring options to get less costly medical care abroad.


In recent years, while still on her ex-husband’s health insurance policy, she had received hormonal treatments to ease the pain so she could go about her daily life. But since her divorce last year and the coronavirus restrictions placed on the beauty industry in March, those treatment costs have become prohibitive, especially with no insurance.


“There is no real cure for endometriosis, but if I want to free myself from this pain then I need to get a hysterectomy,” Ms. Jackson said, her voice shaking as she described the procedure to remove her uterus. “As if the surgery isn’t bad enough, I need to find 20,000 bucks to pay for it, which is just crazy so I’m going to have to find a way to go to Mexico.”


Ms. Jackson has started to plan and save for a trip to Mexicali, a border city in northern Mexico, where she can get a hysterectomy for $4,000, one-fifth the cost of the procedure offered in New Jersey. Her best friend had offered to drive her there and pay for the gas and accommodations.


“We wanted to make a vacation out of it and have some fun before the surgery because it’s such a heavy and dark thing with real consequences,” Ms. Jackson said. “At 39, I have to come to terms with the reality that I’ll never have kids. That’s even more painful than my condition.”


For now, Ms. Jackson has put the surgery on hold and will wait until the virus is brought under control. Her doctor had pointed to cheaper options for the operation in New Jersey, starting at $11,000 in a local outpatient facility. But Ms. Jackson is adamant about having it in the hospital and says the aftercare is more thorough in Mexico.


“Going for the cheaper option at home means getting lower quality care and taking a risk. That just isn’t the experience for people who do this in specialized hospitals in Mexico,” she said. “It’s cheap and safe.” (Many hospitals and clinics in Mexico and other countries have accreditation to ensure their standards are equivalent to medical facilities in the United States.)

In recent weeks, Ms. Jackson has had a flare-up of symptoms, which is common when the condition goes untreated.

“I’m not sure if I will be able to wait for Covid to get better,” she said. “This thing cripples every part of my life.”



Case Study- Jeff Somerville

Jeff is a Delta Air Lines flight attendant from Florida, traveled to Mexico last September for dental work. He got his crowns replaced in Los Algodones, also known as Molar City. 


“It’s just Americans over there getting dental care,” said Jeff Somerville, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant who visited a clinic in Los Algodones in September to get his crowns replaced. “You park on the U.S. side and just walk across. It’s easy and felt very safe.” He said the procedure would have cost around $25,000 in Tampa, Fla., close to where he lives in the city of Clearwater. In Mexico, he paid $7,000.

Now, Mr. Somerville, 47, is preparing to travel to Turkey in February for a hair and beard transplant, which will cost $3,000 and includes plasma treatments, medications, hotel lodging for three nights and a translator.


“I’m going to live my life, but I’m going to take my precautions while I do that,” he said. “I’m not going to sit at home and be scared.”


Case Study- Martin Wright

“This is the best time to get surgery,” said Martin Wright, a British tourist, who had a hair transplant in Istanbul in December, before the new variant of the virus was identified in Britain. “Hotels are cheap, sites are empty and you get to have down time in a foreign city where you don’t have to explain to anyone why or how you got a hair transplant.”


Over the summer, when lockdown restrictions were eased across Europe, Britons traveled to the continent to receive medical treatment, after waiting lists for elective surgery on the National Health Service reached record levels. With British hospitals operating at reduced capacity to accommodate patients with Covid-19, hundreds of thousands of patients, who have been waiting for more than a year for non-urgent surgery, are facing further delays, N.H.S.


Case Study- Cynthia Hedges

Cynthia is a 77-year-old retired nurse from Plymouth in southwest England, traveled to France in August for a knee replacement after waiting more than 19 months to get the procedure at her hospital.

“It just became hopeless, I could barely walk and was just living off pain medication, which is not good for my health,” she said in a telephone interview. “I know we can’t go far these days, but I became very depressed not even being able to walk to my garden. I know it was risky to travel at the time, but it was the best thing I did. It was worth it.”


Conclusion

Even as travel restrictions tighten, experts in the medical tourism industry see an opportunity as demand builds and health care becomes more inaccessible in people’s home countries.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Europe or the Americas,” said Mr. McTaggart of Medical Departures. “Financially challenged individuals will seek out and be more receptive to the idea that you can travel abroad and see substantial savings for medical treatment and get past the line.”


Top Comments


Sasha Love

Austin

April 27, 2022

I had an issue with chronic bleeding after menopause and found out I had uterine cancer. 10 months after my first symptoms started in late March 2020 - at the start of the pandemic I had a full hysterectomy in Austin in January 2021. If I had family, I would have been sent home the day of this major procedure, but because I live by myself, they kept me overnight for observation. I had to pay $1,600 out of pocket for the 3 hour procedure and overnight stay in one of the major hospitals here, packed with Covid19 patients. I took 32 days of sick leave to recover at home by myself.


There was never a discussion by the hospital or my doctor of staying more than 24 hours in the hospital after I had several of my organs removed, and to learn they don't send women home immediately after a hysterectomy in Mexico and other countries, is very upsetting to me.

America does not have the best healthcare in the world and the sooner the majority of American's realize that, the better.



Steve US

Anywhere US

Jan. 27, 2021

I have gone out of the country twice for surgery. Excellent experience with both. Many in America are really clueless about medical tourism fueled by horror stories from American physicians overcharging patients due to corrupt insurance companies inflating costs to fund lavish CEO salaries. Also, the uninsured crashing the ER for medical care is not a sustainable solution for acute care facilities. Who do you think ends up footing the bill when people can’t pay. I bet if hospitals were able to demand payment before giving medical care, we would see a push to have a better healthcare solution in place not tied to employment.



Susan Baughman

Waterville Ireland

Jan. 27, 2021

I live in Europe now. Contrary to the misconception of many Americans, Ireland doesn’t have health care like England; many of us have private health insurance. Of course, I hear stories from friends and neighbors without it: those that do depend on the “free” HSE (health services Eire) (like England’s NHS).


Stories of long waits for MRI’s; of long waits for hip replacements; of serious repercussions of same.


So: MANY go to other countries for care. Croatia or Austria for dental work. Turkey for major surgery. A lady I know is in Turkey RIGHT NOW (during Covid!) having had surgery 4 days ago. She gets 5 days IN HOSPITAL care included in the price - what patient in America gets 5 days of in hospital care after surgery?? (Almost all surgeries are cancelled in Ireland right now, due to pressure on the health system of Covid cases.).


The HSE will even PAY for us to go to other countries for surgery in some cases, as it alleviates the patient backlog here. Really.


The doctors are often American trained; the nurses aren’t overworked and running on empty; the clinics and hospitals are first rate.


I broke my shoulder recently in America: $1,000 for the orthopaedic visit & X-ray the day after my ER visit ($9,000). I flew home and needed

X-rays & orthopaedic visits monthly to watch the healing process (no reparable by surgery). Those visits were €125 (~$140) in total.


ALL Americans - including those with insurance that has a co-pay - should consider foreign healthcare!



Anna Mecagni

Mexico

Feb. 3, 2021

@RR Your doctor doesn't know what they are talking about. I live in Mexico now, and am delighted with the medical care available here. US doctors cannot accept the idea that that physicians in other places provide excellent care at a fraction of the cost. It is a combination of ignorance and ego. An American doc is of course going to bad mouth the cheaper option because then everyone would go and no one would pay the extortionate USA medical costs...they are just trying to discredit so that you don't all realise you have another option



Dr. George MD

Charlotte NC

Jan. 24, 2021

It's unconscionable that we boast of having the world's greatest healthcare system while millions of us go abroad for affordable treatment. The clearcut answer is Medicare for All, a tax-financed system to provide private, independent healthcare to all, with freedom to choose any doctor, dentist, and hospital. We waste billions in worthless administrative overhead each year in our morass of private insurance companies. They and Big Pharma stand to lose with Medicare for All, but all the rest of us can gain guaranteed comprehensive healthcare, and immeasurable peace of mind. It's time!



TheBackman

Berlin, Germany

Jan. 24, 2021

My cataracts were done in Bali in a hospital dedicated to eyes. Dental implants were done in India. Crowns are put on in Croatia. Cataracts were done by a surgeon with 25 years of experience doing 40 surgeries a week for 25 years.

I got the super duper lenses and probably paid half the fees of the local people who got cheaper lenses. Cost one fifth of the US.

Dental implants were $1,000USD for 4.

Crowns after being quoted prices in Germany of 4,000-12,000€

All four done in Croatia with a dentist schooled at UCLA cost 1,800€ for all four.



Mar

Massachusetts

Jan. 23, 2021

I live near Boston known as “medical Mecca”

But even with insurance and dental insurance am Using the dentistry services of student dentists at a local university which has been way more time consuming and only rarely frightening! For the most part having dental care at a student clinic was excellent and less expensive than a “market rate” dentist


A couple years ago while visiting a small town in Finland I became ill . The hotel called the ambulance which arrived quickly, where the two young women EMS took my vitals and got me to the ER


I was admitted promptly and they apologized that since I wasn’t from an EU country they would have to bill me. They were really apologetic !!!


I was treated promptly had appropriate blood work , IV fluids, EKG and X-ray and all was explained. I was given paper copies of my lab results and was discharged about 6am


Soo an entire day and night in an ER with tests and dr visits and an ambulance ride

After I was home I received a bill for ...approx $300.

Contrast this for my cost of just a one mile ambulance ride(with insurance )in the US (not the ER visit or anything else) where my “copay” was $1000. A friend had commented on the short distance of the ambulance ride,” if your leg hadn’t been broken you could’ve walked there!”

Meanwhile in the US the more “prestigious” the hospital is it seems the less efficient they are.



HH

Dallas

Jan. 22, 2021

For the past several years I have gone to Cozumel, Mexico, for dental work, and it has been exemplary — for roughly 1/3 or less than the cost would be in the States. On my last visit, I had an old, broken crown removed, a new zirconium crown seated, a cleaning, a cavity filled, and a new custom-made night guard for less than $1500. The dental office was spotless and there was a TV screen with beautiful nature videos for me to watch. Most importantly, the dentist was extremely competent and highly attentive. On a separate previous visit, I had gone to the same dental office in Cozumel thinking that I needed two new crowns, as I had been told by two dentists in Dallas who both refused to reuse a crown that had fallen out and insisted said that I also needed a second new crown as well. The Mexican dentist preferred to reseat the old crown, which she said was “very good quality.” She also put a filling in the tooth that the US dentists said needed a new crown.That was several years ago, and I have had no problems with the work that she did. So my experience was that the American dentists are all about making the most money possible instead of the least invasive care for their patients. I don’t know that I can ever trust an American dentist again, and that is sad.



Corrie

In California

Jan. 21, 2021

The U.S. healthcare system is broken.

By objective standards, I am a “rich” American. I was treated for an orthopedic emergency in Australia 2 years ago. My care was beyond excellent, and I wasn’t even in a major city. I used my credit card for all expenses for 7 medical appointments including an MRI. The billing people constantly apologized for charging me for my care at all. My total cost was around $500 USD, no insurance required.


This year I’ve suffered a similar injury. I’ve seen over a half dozen medical professionals, including 3 surgeons. I still don’t have a diagnosis. Bills are in the thousands. 6-8 weeks wait time for every new appointment. I’ve lost 7 months of my life to this debilitating condition; and counting. I might lose my job. Nobody even seems interested in figuring out what is wrong with me. My insurance company denied an MRI and the imaging center denied my offer to pay cash (“that’s not how we work”).


At this point I believe that I just have to suffer until I am able to go back to rural Australia to see the wonderful orthopedist that treated me before.

Ironically, that AU ortho was U.S.-trained.



Objectively Subjective

Utopia’s Shadow

Jan. 19, 2021

Having gone for medical treatment in New York, Bangkok, and Freiburg, Germany, among other places, I can say that the US is the most expensive by far, while other countries tend to be faster, cheaper, and just more pleasant while maintaining the same or better standards.

US healthcare is a rip-off.


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