As health care costs continue to rise to staggering levels in the United States, a growing number of people are looking internationally to find quality medical services at more reasonable costs. Due to potential savings of up to 60 or 70 percent on medical procedures performed abroad, Americans have begun to combine dental work, cosmetic procedures, or specialized surgeries with vacation time and in some cases with enough cash left over to bring the entire family.
Mexico has been a popular destination for those seeking respite from high US health costs and prescription medical costs since the 1960s, but over the last decade medical tourism has become a multi-billion dollar international industry. In recent years Mexico has realized the potential market they pose to US citizens seeking medical services abroad. The combination of Mexico's rich culture, mild climate, idyllic beaches along with its reputable hospitals and doctors, as well as its proximity to the US, has appealed to many Americans in search of medical services.
The advantages of medical tourism are very attractive. Cost alone is enough of a motivating factor for some. According to the National Coalition on Health Care more than 12 trillion dollars has been spent by US citizens in the last 7 years on health care, yet compared with other countries where services are much less expensive the NCHC reports that Americans are no more satisfied nor feel they receive better service.
Quality is of foremost concern when receiving medical services abroad. Many hospitals in Mexico have received international accreditations, and it is common that doctors and specialists study or practice for years in the United States or Europe. Additionally, insurance companies are beginning to investigate medical tourism as well, lured by the value of services provided abroad, and some companies have begun naming specific international hospitals and clinics as approved providers.
Because the potential savings of receiving medical services abroad is so enticing, the logical next step has been for international health care providers to combine, for example, a cosmetic procedure with a weekend at the spa or on the beach. Mexico?s foremost destinations for medical treatments spiced with relaxing recoveries in luxurious accommodations are Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Los Cabos, and La Paz. Dental tourism packages are easily found in these resort towns, and can often include transportation to and from the airport, lodging, and fine dining.
For more specialized medical services like joint replacements, cancer treatments or complex plastic surgeries, the best services are offered in Mexico's largest cities: Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. In these locations clients include visits to Aztec ruins and internationally renowned museums, or they spend time relaxing, recuperating and enjoying local cultural events. Cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, on the US-Mexico border, are popular destinations for cutting-edge and, sometimes, controversial cancer treatments.
As with any serious medical treatment, there are potential risks. To minimize problems, have all your questions answered before heading south of the border. Aside from the most important questions about the doctor's and hospital's qualifications, the service and availability of nurses and support staff, and the success rate, cost and liability of the procedure, don't forget to investigate the cultural differences you may encounter. Especially if it is your first trip abroad, be as prepared as possible for the minor differences or inconveniences that are bound to occur when traveling outside the country. Anticipate varying levels of infrastructure and consider how best to handle culture shock.
Medical tourism may not be for everyone; however, its growing popularity indicates that it is worth researching. You may find that having a less expensive surgery performed in Mexico could make the difference between getting the surgery or going without it. Perhaps you could even bring the family along for a few days at the beach to boot.
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