Medical tourism — getting surgery cheaper elsewhere

Which health insurance providers have provisions that allow for medical tourism?  I’ve heard that hip surgery is much cheaper in other countries, and I’m going to need it soon.

Have Hip, Will Travel

Dear Have Hip, Will Travel, 

Medical tourism is going to another country for medical care.  It is popular for cosmetic procedures or other treatments that are not covered by a health insurance plan.  It can be much cheaper to have your dental surgery in Mexico, for example, than in the United States.

Health insurers generally do not cover elective (planned) surgeries in other countries.  Some self-funded plans are offering support for medical tourism, for procedures that the plan does cover.  This is a new area for plans, and many people are skittish about sending employees on a long trip to get a complex surgery.  Even if the hospital abroad meets U.S. standards — and many of them are accredited by U.S. agencies — the travel itself can make your procedure and recovery more difficult.  Follow-up care is another issue.

You should ask your employer or your plan administrator about your surgery and coverage at accredited hospitals.  You may be surprised to find that they will cover it, and even help you pay your travel expenses.  It’s worth a shot.

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Linda Riddell

About Linda Riddell

A published author and health policy analyst with 25 years’ experience, Linda Riddell's goal is to alleviate the widespread ailment of not knowing what your health plan can do for you.