A traveler, or US resident willing to take a junket to a 5-star hotel plus quality hospital care in an exotic land, need not have American medical insurance, and he’ll get quality treatment at a fraction the cost. Third World countries charge cheap rates, the same for locals and visitors, for diagnosis, treatment, operations, and hospitalization. Someone has pointed out to me that it is correctly termed “medical” rather than “health” insurance because many American doctors poorly promote your health.
In El Centro, Mexico, a month ago, a physician told me after I walked cold into his office where he had learned from his father before going to medical school and returning to take over, that the difference between Mexican and American doctors is that the patients trust the doctors who are not hampered by American Medical Association protocol such as rote antibiotics, radiographs, blood tests, and so forth before getting to the heart of the matter with a simple oral history and physical exam the minute you step in the office.
Then I walked around the block to an American dentist who moved to El Centro, where, though his rates for fillings and crowns are a quarter of those of his US peers, no doctor’s insurance is required, there are no legal suits, and he does well in dental tourism with the majority of clients from the USA.
It’s all in finding the right doctor… anywhere. I insist on seasoned docs and sports medicine physicians, or at least one who does sports. In a dearth, visit a sharp young clinic of a handful of friend docs who in synergy come through with the proper diagnosis and treatment. My luck with physicians in foreign countries has been excellent in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. Sometimes they kick the price up 20% for ex-pats or visitors, bringing it to maybe 5% of the American rates.
Foreign hospital doctors nearly always run private practices at home, and that’s where I get instant professional help. The red carpet rolls out. No appointment, his wife is the secretary, and he’s linked to the top local specialists for radiology, lab tests, surgery, etc. You’re in and out of his doctor’s door in 15 minutes, and feeling so much better that you’re tempted to toss the prescription to be filled down the block instantly at about 25% USA costs. The doctors and pharmacists generally speak some English. In many countries such as Peru, the pharmacists are so versed in medicines that the doctor is bypassed and he diagnoses and prescribes for simple cases.
Foreign docs, while making less than American ones, often own auxiliary businesses. A physician-owner of a restaurant gave a tour of his clinic, some excellent off-the-cuff health pointers, and was willing to trade English lessons for future diagnoses. He had worked at three American hospitals for a total of eight years but prefers to practice in Peru. This country offers resident visas to foreigners willing to have their monthly Social Security checks deposited in a local bank, and comprehensive medical/hospital insurance for about $50 a month.
On the other hand, a year ago in Lake Toba, Sumatra, an elderly restaurant owner tossed a salad explaining that no one in Toba gets sick, there are no dentists — what for? — and in the event of a village accident or emergency, a local or foreigner is whisked away in one of three town cars to a nearby city where the doctor accepts homemade pies and chickens, just like the old-time American doctors.
Medical tourism is a welcome wave set off by shocking American fees, and a seeming US government ploy to shunt citizens into corporate, county, state, or federal jobs to be able to afford the one thing you cannot provide for yourself — medical care or health insurance.
Predictably, as medical tourism grows, an American backlash should lower medical insurance and care, but until then, why not take a vacation for an operation?