Medical tourism is the practice of traveling abroad for medical care. People generally reserve it for costly medical procedures such as cosmetic surgery or experimental procedures that may not be available in one’s own country. Medical tourism continues to thrive as a booming business as the cost of healthcare in the United States grows. Over 750,000 United States residents travel abroad for medical treatment each year, turning it into a $100 billion industry.
Americans are always looking for ways to save money, especially since the economy has been in such a sorry state for the last several years, but is traveling to a foreign country for a cheaper medical procedure really a good idea? Although there are some brilliant doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals in other nations, many would argue that medical tourism is a risky practice that should be reserved as a last resort.
Regulation, or Lack Thereof
Although the lure of cheaper medical care and an international vacation make medical tourism an attractive option for some people, it does expose people to unregulated medical procedures. Despite routine complaints about the American healthcare system, it is still very tightly regulated, and medical professionals who violate regulations are swiftly punished. Most people in the United States are almost guaranteed clean facilities, needles that aren’t reused, and licensed medical professionals. The same cannot be said about many other countries where laws regarding medical care are much more lax. Many people who travel overseas for a relatively simple operation find that they’ve been exposed to dangerous diseases such as hepatitis and HIV, something that rarely happens in most first-world medical facilities.
Insurance May Not Help
In the United States, medical insurance often covers the costs of malpractice. Unfortunately, American citizens who travel abroad may be out of luck should they fall victim to poor treatment or other kinds of malpractice. A botched medical treatment can cost a lot of money and even be fatal if it is severe enough, and although it does happen in the United States many people can at least take comfort in the fact that their insurance will cover them if something does go wrong.
One very obvious problem that people face whenever they travel to a foreign country is that they have trouble communicating with locals. There is no shame in not being able to speak a country’s native language fluently; many people can still get around a foreign city even if they have only a tentative grasp of that city’s language. However, everyone should be able to communicate easily with their doctors when receiving medical care. Having a language barrier with someone who is providing potentially life-saving advice could lead to some serious problems, especially if the patient’s primary doctor is on the other side of the world.
In theory, medical tourism isn’t a horrible idea. Ideally, those who travel to other countries to receive medical treatment are being treated by experienced professionals who will provide them with the best possible care. On the other hand, it’s often safer to seek help from medical professionals in your own country, even if it is more expensive. After all, cheaper medical care is never worth risking your health.