Medical Tourism: a Retiree Health-Care Solution?

Thailand’s Bumrungrad Hospital, courtesy of


By Billy and Akaisha Kaderli,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

From hip replacement, dental procedures to heart surgery, more people are discovering the advantages of traveling abroad for their medical needs.

In just the past few years, medical vacations have gone from a tiny niche market to an impressive growth story with substantial market-share gains.

Hospitals in countries such as Mexico, India, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Thailand are taking advantage of this global trend. And U.S. companies are taking note as well tailoring their corporate health insurance plans to give employees the opportunity to head to India or elsewhere for surgeries such as knee replacements and the more modern, less invasive approach to hip replacement, hip resurfacing.

In the Western Hemisphere, Costa Rica is currently one of the “in” destination for travelers, especially for dental and cosmetic surgery needs. You can schedule online and receive a custom-made package, appointment and prices in your email response.

For years, people in the American Southwest have capitalized on the high-quality dental work available south of the border for a fraction of U.S. prices. Now more people are traveling to Guadalajara in Mexico for body augmentation and other surgeries, too. Many of the doctors there are US-trained, and the equipment is top of the line. (We know, because we’ve used it.)

In Asia, one of the world’s most acclaimed hospitals is located in Bangkok, Thailand. Bumrungrad looks more like a five-star hotel than a medical facility — until you get to the third floor. World leaders from around the globe fly here for medical procedures. Their website is user-friendly, as is its professional, English-speaking staff. The hospital has more than 200 surgeons who are board-certified in the United States. We have quipped many times that the cheapest health care plan is an air ticket to Bangkok.

Also close by is the Bangkok Heart Hospital. Both of these facilities are located in the center of the city, with easy access to shopping and attractions. If necessary, they will arrange your hotel stay along with the medical procedure you’re having performed, all without waiting times or disqualifications. Your entire extensive physical will be done in one morning, with your blood results and consultation that afternoon. In and out in a single day. How’s that for service?

Is it safe?

Many people interested in medical tourism are concerned about the quality and safety of going abroad for technical and complex medical care, and how to get post-operative care once they return home. All of the hospitals mentioned here use the latest equipment and are either internationally accredited facilities or have US- trained physicians on staff. Some U.S. health plans also provide an in-state network of physicians who will treat a patient who’s gone abroad for medical care. The one thing that sets these hospitals apart from many of their U.S. counterparts is their attention to customer service — they are professional and courteous in a way you rarely see any more at home.

For instance, award-winning Fortis Escorts Heart Institute in Delhi and Faridabad, India, manage over 14,500 admissions and 7,200 emergency cases in a year.

India also has top-notch centers for hip and knee replacement, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, bone marrow transplants, and cancer therapy. Virtually all of these clinics are equipped with the latest electronic and medical diagnostic equipment.

Sounds good, but what’s the cost?

Notes: *As of February 2017. U.S. costs vary based on location, materials and equipment used, and individual patients’ requirements. Figures are averages and reflect more common incidence of cost. International estimates do not include travel or accommodations. Source: Patients Beyond Borders

Even though you get high-quality care at these hospitals, prices are quite a bit lower than what you’ll find in the U.S. Several sources report big cost savings in recent years for many procedures. For example, take a look at the chart above. Various common procedures and their pricing are listed along with the countries which offer these services. You can compare for yourself.

While international medical tourism isn’t for everyone, the attraction is straightforward. The costs for everything from facelifts, dental implants, stem cell therapy, or hormone therapy to reverse the effects of aging can be one-half or less for comparable procedures in the States. Have your surgery, then recover and recuperate in a beautiful mountain setting or at a resort hotel.

Most procedures can be found online, letting you know what’s included in the cost. The figure quoted to you will cover everything, including follow-up visits. There are no hidden charges, and the price includes the room, doctor, and staff.

If you’d like to retire soon, but you’re held back by health-care issues, or if you’ve got the health-care blues and need a holiday break, why not do some research online and take a vacation?

I don’t wanna travel for medical care

But perhaps you are not the type to travel to faraway lands for medical care or find the Expatriate life unappealing. Then what? This chapter is not meant to be one that compares insurance plans. These decisions are intensely personal, and one combination is not suitable for everyone. Our focus is to offer you options and something you might be able to integrate into your approach to health care delivery.

One thing you might also think about is the difference between paying for the health care itself versus paying for the insurance to pay for health care.

If you pay for insurance month after month, year after year without making a claim, then that money has been spent but has not bought you care. If you put that same amount of money into an account (and after several years it could be tens of thousands of dollars) and actually purchase care when you need it, your money would go far — provided you don’t purchase the delivery of that care in the US.

Whether you decide to work for years longer to receive employer-supplied insurance, decide to self-insure, or opt for a high deductible catastrophic plan, is something you must determine for yourself.

Again, our intent is to show you some choices that might appeal to you and perhaps make your road to retirement simpler or easier to achieve.

Some have mentioned to us that the matter of employer-sponsored health insurance was a mental obstruction to their Early Retirement. They were fixated on that option only, blinded to other choices. Finding themselves out on their own for one reason or another, and having to pay for their own health care, forcibly changed their minds. Wherever you find yourself on this continuum, we say that your personal involvement is irreplaceable. There is no substitute.

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

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