I’m a big fan of medical tourism. As defined by the Wiki (something else I’m a big fan and supporter of), medical tourism is “a term initially coined by travel agencies and the mass media to describe the rapidly-growing practice of travelling across international borders to obtain health care.”
To understand medical tourism, one must first examine the reasons why medical tourism exist in the first place.
One of the major reasons medical tourism exists is because the cost of medical care through privatized medicine is beyond outrageous; it is downright unaffordable. And while many health practitioners will say that you can’t put a price on the value of your life (thus bringing forth the whole argument about why they should be allowed to charge such ludicrous fees for health care in the first place), the reality is that yes, you can.
Bear in mind that this discussion is simply my opinion. You have the right to disagree if you see fit. But as someone who has been taking advantage of medical tourism for several years now, I know a number of benefits that make it far more worthwhile than traditional, privatized medicine.
The other reason medical tourism is beginning to gain popularity is that more and more people are waking up and realizing that the myths surrounding medical care in foreign countries is largely just that: a myth. Doctors in Bulgaria go to the same universities as doctors from the United Kingdom. Doctors in Mexico go to the same schools and universities as doctors from the United States. They all order their supplies and equipment from the same manufacturers. They all have the same standard operating procedures. And while yes, it is true that in certain backwater sections of the world you might run into places where sanitation or procedures are slightly more limited than they are in major cities, the same can be said for any backwater location, whether it is in the middle of Oklahoma or the jungles of Peru. As long as you stick to civilized sections of these countries (see major cities) you will come in contact with the exact same types of doctors you are used to visiting in your home country.
So why then should you be willing to shell out hundreds of dollars on procedures that cost a fraction of the price in other countries?
The best answer? You shouldn’t.
Alarmist, mainstream media outlets such as the United Kingdom’s Guardian have their opinion. In an article published back in November of 2006, the author talks about the high costs of dental work in the United Kingdom, and the fact that medical tourism is very much “the only option” for people who are unable to pay for private treatment. The article then goes on to paint a grim picture of some lady who went abroad for medical treatment and was “horribly disfigured”, but what the article fails to mention is that the cases of this actually happening are no greater than they are in Western nations; doctors sometimes make mistakes.
I’m a proponent of medical tourism for most non life-threatening issues, such as checkups, general dental work, blood work and etc. For example, in early 2010 I went to the dentist in Bulgaria and had my teeth cleaned, the plaque removed, and a crack in one of my teeth filled. The cost of my 4 hour dentist trip? Less than 30 USD. The same procedure in the States would have ranged between 400 and 700 dollars, depending on the dentist and which area of the country I was visiting my dentist in.
And while mainstream media likes to point the figure towards the horrible mishaps, they also don’t tell you about the success stories, such as the one woman from the United Kingdom who needed around 10,000 pounds worth of implants and work done on her mouth, and she came to Bulgaria and had it all done for under 200 pounds, and was so satisfied with her treatment and dentist that she started a blog about it talking about the amazing benefits of traveling to another country for cheap medical care, effectively allowing her to save 10 thousand pounds.
My neighbor here in Cancun is another example. He went through sleep dentistry in San Diego a few years back and paid over 30,000 for porcelain caps, and just this year he found out that they are offering the exact same services with a doctor in Cabo San Lucas who studied at the same school his San Diego dentist went to, but the price is 6,000 USD versus 30k. A 25k price tag difference for the exact same procedure, using the same tools, the same materials, the same schooling and the same level of professionalism.
No one is denying the fact that in certain parts of the world you probably don’t want to have invasive procedures done because the lack of proper equipment could lead to issues. But the fact of the matter is that most of the hospitals in major cities around the world have the exact same medical equipment as anywhere else, and the doctors all have to go through the same standards of education. While not all private practitioners around the globe are the same, the chances of you running into someone who is practicing medicine without a license is extremely rare, especially if you are an intelligent individual who does his/her research on a place in advance.
So how does medical tourism affect you as a freelance writer? Since you are already working remotely, without the need for a physical office, you can take advantage of the savings by traveling to other countries. While it’s not necessarily beneficial for every individual, and there are some procedures you might want to only have performed at the highest level possible (such as open heart surgery), the vast majority of regular procedures that we all go through are perfectly acceptable to have done in other countries where it costs a fraction of what it does back home. Need your annual checkup on your teeth? Why pay a few hundred dollars when you could pay 25-30? Want liposuction but don’t want to pay thousands of dollars? Want porcelain caps but don’t want to spend 30k or more on dental work? Start looking elsewhere to countries where the medicine is a hell of a lot cheaper.
The pharmaceutical companies in the United States and the United Kingdom are two of the biggest money-making schemes on the planet, and they have one plan and one plan only: get as many people taking their products as possible, and they do that by brainwashing people into believing that they can only obtain quality health services in their countries, from their recommended doctors using the pills and antibiotics and drugs that their doctors prescribe. The reality is that there is this vast world of educated individuals out there, and they have just as much passion for saving lives as the next doctor…only without the price tag attached.
Medical tourism is not for everyone. Understandably some people are nervous about it, largely because they have been brainwashed into believing that the only “safe” health care is that which is offered in the United States/United Kingdom. But the reality is often such that you can spend a couple hundred dollars on a round-trip ticket to somewhere south or north of the border and get your dental work or other processes done for literal pennies in comparison to what you are being charged back home. Don’t think you are limited to the physicians in your area. Start looking at other countries, and look at the credentials for their doctors. These guys go to the same schools, have the same degrees, the same access to equipment, and the same level of professionalism and hygiene as anywhere else on the planet, so long as you stick to the major cities around the world.