Hidden Costs of Medical Tourism

Newsletter – Hidden Cost Of Medical Tourism

Considering traveling abroad to get a medical treatment, diagnostics, and/or second opinion and wondering how much it costs? We addressed cost issues in several of our blogs in the past.  Today we wanted to bring to our reader’s attention the hidden costs of medical tourism.

It could be broken down into two categories – financial and non-financial. Monetary hidden costs are a bit more manageable if one prepares and asks the right questions before going.

Potential Unexpected Financial Costs

  • Unexpected medical complications.  All surgeries carry a risk of complications. Talk to your medical tourism professional about them. Arrange an interview with prospective doctors to better understand the rate of complications. We highly recommend looking into purchasing a medical complications insurance for traveling abroad to receive medical treatment such as Global Protective Solutions.
  • Hidden hospital charges. Ask how much it costs if you need a longer hospital stay.
  • Is the price you were given an all-inclusive price?  Questions you need to ask are: Does this price include the surgeon fee, facility charge, anesthesia, pre and post op medications, and pre-op testing such as blood work or EKG.  In some situations such as a GYN surgery, there might also be a biopsy required.  Would this be included?  In the case of an orthopedic surgery such as a joint replacement, is the implant included?  No one likes an unexpected bill so be sure to ask all of these questions upfront!
  • Additional testing for diagnosis such as a CT Scan or MRI.

Non-Financial Costs 

  • The cost of not talking to your primary care provider in your home country can be very high and it is potentially harmful to your overall health. Your family physician has the most knowledge about your situation and if you inform her of your intended travel you will place yourself in a much better position to mitigate the risks. She will be able to talk to you about different health scenarios for your particular condition. It will be easier to consult her when you are back home. No one likes surprises and it’s not worth the risk. Sometimes it can be difficult to bring up this conversation but is well worth the efforts. All Canadian doctors are aware that medical tourism exists and for the most part are supportive of it.
  • Access to the doctor who performed your surgery or treatment can be limited. This one should be closely discussed and reviewed as you are going through your quotes and selection of medical specialists and facilities.
  • Arranging follow-up care can be challenging and costly. Find out the recovery time and what you need to do. Your medical tourism facilitator can provide you with a quote and connect you to a physiotherapist so that you can continue the recovery process when you are back home. If you have supplemental health insurance your physiotherapy may be covered.  If not, the cost of a therapist traveling to your home is about $90 per session.

All these considerations are a lot to think about and are easy to forget. Ensure you either have a good medical facilitator to keep track of these or print this list and keep it as you go through your research.

The Cost of Waiting for Medical Treatment

Many Canadians experience delays in getting to timely health care they need. Some of the delays have a real impact on one’s overall health, including mental health. We wanted to examine a little closer what those impacts may be and if access to a private treatment faster can alleviate some of the issues.

Perhaps the most frustrating part is that we have to live in the unknown for a while. The unknown means different things to different people and their medical cases. At times It is an unknown that we can handle, i.e. if someone is having a shoulder pain that doesn’t impede his or her daily activities to a severe degree and that person is waiting 3-4 months to get an ultrasound.

It’s frustrating nevertheless. Even though the healthcare is free, we are well aware that it is not so. According to the Fraser Institute, an average Canadian family of four will pay about $12,000 for public healthcare, while the average single individual will pay about $4,600. These amounts vary by income level. So the average family in the lowest 10 percent of income-earners will pay a little less than $500, while those in among the top 10 percent will pay almost $40,000.(1)

So what happens if it is a health concern that has not been properly diagnosed or treated? The reasons could be because the diagnostic services have a wait list of their own; long wait times to see a specialist; or a person has been to a couple of specialists with no clear diagnosis. What if a person was diagnosed but the wait list for treatment is over 1 year? What are the consequences of such situations? There are many.

First is the loss of income due to excessive absences or disability. Canadian Labour Code protects job security for 17 weeks but there is no provision for paid leave of absence. If you are unable to walk or sit at your job due to a bad hip or knee, you may not be able to work and therefore lose significant income.

The second one is that your overall health may be in jeopardy. If you were an active person and enjoyed physical exercise you will quickly find yourself that due to pain and limited physical activity your body is no longer receiving the benefits and starts to deteriorate. Muscle loss and shortness of breath can develop rather quickly.

The third significant effect of waiting is the state of your mental health. It is compromised due to dealing with uncertainty and constant pain. Things that you used to enjoy such as spending time with friends and family may be off limit to you because you are dealing with mobility and pain issues. You may feel isolated and develop mental anguish.

Needless to say, your general health and the quality of life are negatively affected by having to wait for medical help. What if you were to get it done quicker through private channels? The cost of private total knee replacement at one of our US facilities is USD $15,499. Another facility we work with in Canada offers it for CAD$20,000. Many Canadians decide to seek help elsewhere. To them, the quality of life trumps the issue of having to pay for their treatments. What are your thoughts on this?

(1) https://www.fraserinstitute.org/article/lets-talk-about-the-price-of-public-health-care-in-canada

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Medical Travel Facilitator?

How much does it cost to hire a medical travel facilitator? This is a question that is worth bringing up on our blog to make things clear. It is also helpful to know what a medical facilitator does, and services it delivers.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, to facilitate means to make things easier. A facilitator is someone who helps to bring about an outcome by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision. In the field of medical travel where there may be very many unknowns, the service for medical facilitator can be vital.

Your medical travel facilitator should provide these 4 very important services.

1. Listen and assess your medical needs and requirements.
2. Present you with medical facility choices as a result of thorough research of hospital/treatment center, its credentials, and credentials of its doctors. If you would like to talk to any of the treating specialists, it should be easily arranged via phone or video conference.
3. Take care of all the logistics of your medical appointments and travel plans as well as follow up arrangements when you are back at home. Ideally, the facilitator should visit each medical facility he/she works with to vet it personally. Health Vantis does this with each and every surgical center or hospital that we recommend to our clients.
4. Treat your personal and medical records with confidentiality and according to the rules of the province you reside in.

In addition, your medical travel professional should be able to assist with referrals for medical complications insurance, medical financing, travel insurance and medical escort services if such is needed or desired.

What does a service like this cost? In general, it is 10-15% of the cost of your medical procedure. If you are going for a second opinion or diagnostics, the fee may differ. If you have come across facilitators that do the work for you for “free”, please keep in mind that it is not really “free”. In our next week blog, we will talk about “free” medical facilitation services, what to watch for and who really ends up paying for the service.