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Traveling for Treatment
Date:4/8/2009

Boucher. "At the same time, 2008 was the first year of the 'silver tsunami,' with Americans turning 62 at [a rapid] rate," he noted.

"Over half of folks turning 62 opted for early Social Security, and most do not have an employer-sponsored medical program," Boucher added. "There's going to be a sharply increasing number of people that need bypass surgery and hip and knee replacements."

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, costs for treatment abroad can be as little as one-half to one-fifth the going rate in the United States. As an example, it cited New Delhi's Apollo Hospital, which charges $4,000 for heart surgery, compared with an average of $30,000 in the United States.

A "nose job" might cost $850 in India and $4,500 in the United States. An MRI in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, Singapore or Thailand ranges from $200 to $300, but it can be three or four times that much stateside.

To be sure, the trend can have a downside. According to one study from researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, people getting kidney transplants overseas tend to experience more complications, including rejection of the organ and severe infections, than do people opting to undergo the procedure in the United States.

And what happens with follow-up care once a so-called medical tourist returns to the United States? And which country's laws prevail if there's a problem?

For the most part, those questions have no standard answers, leaving each person to resolve the issues, and any similar ones, that might come up.

But Herrick says that a little planning and common-sense precautions can minimize the risks. He advises anyone contemplating medical treatment abroad to:

  • Make sure the facility is accredited by JCI or an equivalent standard-setting organization in the destination country.
  • Check the credentials of th
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