Utne Blogs > Politics

Going Abroad For What Ails You

by David Doody

Tags: medical tourism, The Affordable Care Act, health care, politics, 5280 Magazine, David Doody,


If you’ve been putting off that surgery because your basic health insurance doesn’t cover it and paying for it yourself is out of the question, as you’d have to sacrifice home and wealth along with your health, well, your answer may come with a vacation to Costa Rica. No, I’m not talking about the restorative qualities of a nice lounge on a white sandy beach, staring out at rolling ocean waves as dolphins arc in the distance and you sip a cocktail out of a coconut, dosing from time to time only to be woken up by the distant call of a toucan…sorry, got a little side tracked there; as I write it’s negative 10 with a windchill of minus 24 where I am. Anyway, while the relaxation offered by a good vacation may indeed serve you well, the cost of medical care abroad may serve you even better. Writing for 5280 Magazine Luc Hatlestad highlights the rise of medical tourism and posits that the practice has become a safe and affordable alternative to health care in the U.S.

Last year, Robin Lara flew more than 3,000 miles to see a dentist—in Costa Rica. Because her own insurance didn’t cover a series of dental implants she wanted, Lara decided to become just one more American to experience the growing trend of medical tourism….

The savings companies like MedVacation [a Denver-based medical tourism company] offer can be significant. Lara flew from her home in Sacramento, California, to Costa Rica for her dental work. MedVacation set it all up, including transportation between the airport, hotel, and dentist’s office. She’d been quoted between $15,000 and $20,000 for surgery in the States—none of it covered by insurance—but estimates she spent one-third to half of that through MedVacation. “The quality of the work is amazing, and the dentist was very friendly, professional, and sincere,” she says. “All anyone has to go on down there is their reputation, and they take that very seriously.” 

It’s an interesting addition to the current health care debate—while some wait for certain parts of The Affordable Care Act to kick in and others try to dismantle it piece by piece. What do you think? Would you feel comfortable flying 3,000 miles to see a dentist or a surgeon? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: 5280 Magazine 

Image by Nancy Pelosi, licensed under Creative Commons.