Americans flock to other countries for medical procedures

“When Americans think of medical travel, some might imagine expensive cosmetic surgery in exotic destinations like Bangkok or Barcelona,” explains Dan Grunebaum, data journalist and developer for and its web properties. “It’s part of the market, but for a growing number of Americans, medical travel means going south of the Mexican border for dental treatment.”

HealthCareInsider analyzed proprietary data from Medical departures, an “Expedia for medical travel” and found:

  • During the pandemic, Americans continued to travel abroad for treatment.
  • In 2020, about 290,000 Americans went abroad for dental and medical procedures. The previous year, some 780,000 people requested outgoing services. The projected analysis for 2021 is 650,000.
  • Medical travel has largely rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, while spending has increased from 20% to 50%.
  • Americans travel abroad to save anywhere 50% to 80% on medical and dental procedures.
  • In Mexico, root canals are 80% cheaper and in vitro fertilization 75.5%.
  • Americans travel the world to save money on medical and dental procedures. An interactive map shows or they will. Popular destinations include: Los Algodones, Mexico: for complete arch reconstruction and dental implants; Bogota, Colombia: nose work; Pasay, Philippines: hip replacements.
  • The other hot spots are: Bangkok, Thailand, Tijuana, Mexico.

To understand the effect of the pandemic on medical travel, explore a full scan with commentary from industry leaders and academic experts.

Jacob Pope, director of medical departures operations, says medical departures represent about 15% of total outbound activity from the United States and send 100,000 or more Americans each year to Mexico alone. It estimates that about 780,000 Americans in total went abroad for treatment during the prepandemic year of 2019. Although Americans have come to rely on the health systems of foreign countries for dentistry Affordable and of good quality, other sought-after procedures include in vitro fertilization and orthopedic surgery. .

Pope says the most popular procedures her company handles reservations for are implants and full mouth reconstruction. “With dental care,” he says, “Mexico has positioned itself as a very good destination. They have dentists who are trained in the best schools, or many in the United States. There are towns on the Mexican border that are half pharmacies and half dental clinics, and you get that border traffic by car.

Ralph Grosswald, CEO of Beyond Borders Dental LLC, adds: “Beyond Borders Dental works with a very small number of carefully selected practices so that our patients can be assured that they will receive very high quality dental care. We make on-site visits to our clinics, meet with dentists and review their education, credentials and professional affiliations, and we review their sterilization procedures and visit their laboratories. If someone is just surfing the net to choose a dentist, they may have a less positive experience. He adds: “Our dentists in Mexico are subject to a very different system. In an effort to reduce the medical and dental costs of a largely impoverished country, the Mexican government has implemented programs that allow dentists to learn for free by contributing one year of service as a dentist in their community. In addition, drug costs are strictly controlled. With qualified dentists not having to repay huge loans, and with rents and manpower significantly lower than in the United States, our Mexican dentists can provide excellent dental care at cost. much lower, generally 50 to 80% less than American dentists.

According to The American Journal of Medicine, patients who travel to another country for treatment are called medical tourists. The term originated because many Americans seek less expensive elective surgical, dental, or cosmetic procedures while on vacation abroad. The Journal argues that other countries may charge less because of lower salaries for doctors and other healthcare workers, much less overhead because patients pay cash and subtract the substantial cost of insurance against professional misconduct. Considering the magnitude of income from medical tourism, it is not surprising that a number of cities and countries are actively seeking medical tourism. Some examples are Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia. Health care brokers are readily available in the United States and abroad to help arrange air travel and hotel accommodation and provide tourist information, in addition to arranging admission to various hospitals. and access to physicians around the world.

The CDC reports that people can travel to another country for health care for many reasons, including: Cost is the main factor as travelers can get treatment or procedure which may be cheaper in another country . For example, dental crowns cost an average of $ 1,164 in the United States compared to $ 500 in Mexico, a saving of 57.04%. root canals; $ 1,275 compared to $ 247, a savings of 80.63%.

In addition, culture plays a role in a person’s decision to travel in order to receive care from a health care provider who shares the culture and language of the traveler. People also leave for a procedure or therapy that is not available or approved in the United States.

“Patients need to balance their costs in the United States against the total cost of procedures and travel overseas, and make safety their number one priority,” says Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of “Medical travelers should also remember that many countries require US citizens to have travel insurance in order to visit.”

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