This week, I had the incredible joy of welcoming my son into the world. He is healthy, happy and at nearly 9 pounds, quite strong.
As soon as we found out she was pregnant, my wife and I deliberately decided to give birth in Cancun, Mexico. We live in Puerto Rico, but have found with our last child that the healthcare experience here in Mexico is truly top notch…but incredibly inexpensive.
By comparison, I recently read the story of a 30-year-old man who was in a car accident in Modesto, California. Fortunately, he was not seriously injured. But as the accident left him with shoulder and back pain, he went to the hospital to make sure it was nothing serious.
His three-hour hospital visit consisted of a quick chat with an emergency doctor who wrote that the patient “looked fine”. He also received a prescription for painkillers.
And his bill arrived at $44,914.
Unfortunately, his story is not unique. It is easy to find cases, for example, of an $8,000 surprise bill for a colonoscopy from an “out-of-network” provider; that is, a medical center that does not accept certain insurances. Or an extra $1,600 added to a birth bill, just for the epidural.
Health care spending in the United States was about $2,000 per person in 1970, adjusted for inflation in 2022 dollars. Today, it’s over $12,000 per capita.
During this time, we’ve seen a lot of new regulations in the healthcare system, including HIPPA and even a regulatory overhaul with the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Somehow this has made care less affordable and has not improved its quality.
And while the health workforce has increased by 75% in the United States since 1990, 95% of new workers are administrative staff.
The solution, however, is not “free” health care – “free” ends up being the most expensive of all.
The socialized medical system in the UK is short by around 100,000 jobs. And as a result, millions of UK patients are on waiting lists; pay for their time and their health deteriorates.
Canada’s socialized health care system is similar.
Although health spending per capita is among the highest of all countries, Canadians wait on average more than 25 weeks to see a specialist. In 1993, the median wait time was about 9 weeks.
But head to Mexico City and you’ll find the clinics packed with Canadians, happy to pay out of pocket for immediate, quality health care.
If you are willing to look beyond the borders of your home country, you will find a thriving medical tourism industry all over the world.
And if you think that means sacrificing quality, you’ll be surprised.
My own experience here in Mexico has been stellar. What we found was amazing personalized care, accommodations and comfort, for a fraction of the price we would have paid in the States.
(The added benefit is that a baby born in Mexico is automatically a Mexican citizen, and parents quickly obtain citizenship in just two years. If you want to know everything, you can listen to the podcast here.)
Often, medical tourism destinations will have a particular specialty.
Mexico, for example, captures a large number of Americans traveling south for dental care, as Mexican care is about 65% cheaper. While it can cost nearly $4,000 for a single dental implant in the United States, one of Cancun’s most popular dental clinics charges $900 each.
Mexico is also a great place for health checkups. For example, an “executive” exam is a thorough examination of your blood, organ functions and more, which costs around $5,000 in the United States.
At various hospitals from Cancun to Mexico City, the range for this type of exam is between $850 and $1,500.
Are Mexican doctors as well trained and qualified as American doctors? In many establishments, yes. For instance, Medica Sur in Mexico City partners with the prestigious Mayo Clinic Care Network.
With such easy access to quality health care, the low cost of living and an easy path to permanent residency for retireesMexico is a great option to consider for retirement.
Colombia has some of the best rated hospitals and clinics in Latin America.
According to a 2019 study by America Economia, 24 of the 58 best clinics and hospitals in Latin America are in Colombia. And you’ll pay about 40% off US prices.
Many of these hospitals are accredited by the JCI (Joint Commission International (JCI) – an independent non-profit hospital rating agency) and able to provide basically any medical procedure you may need.
from Panama specialty could be considered stem cell therapy.
First, stem cells do not have to come from aborted embryos. Instead, scientists can extract stem cells from a corpse and use this material for knee injections, for example.
But the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not authorize this type of stem cell treatment.
Panama is an ideal destination in the Americas to benefit from stem cell injections.
For example, in operation since 2006, Dr. Neil Riordan (Ph.D in Health Sciences) and his Stem Cellular Institute have treated thousands of patients, including such prominent ones as Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus.
Leaving Latin America…
Which countries are best for high quality and reasonably priced medical tourism in Asia?
Thailand medical tourism hospitals, for example, can feel more like going to a luxury hotel.
Bumrungrad offers exquisite lobbies, concierge service, gourmet restaurants, luxury accommodations and nurses who are more like butlers.
Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok was the first in Asia to obtain JCI accreditation. Looking through the physician profiles on his website, I found that the majority were trained in the United States.
This hospital can handle your most serious surgeries. For example, a coronary bypass usually costs about one-fifth of the price of US$100,000.
And that price includes seven nights of accommodation, two of which are in the post-operative coronary care unit.
Malaysia offers similar prices for quality care at JCI accredited hospitals.
But for an even cheaper medical tourism option in Asia, consider this up-and-coming medical country…
Vietnam is relatively new to the medical tourism scene, which might explain why its prices tend to be lower than Thailand and Malaysia. But again, you won’t sacrifice quality.
In 2015, Vinmec International, which has offices across the country, was the first hospital in Vietnam to receive JCI accreditation.
How much does open heart surgery in Vietnam cost? The most expensive type of open-heart surgery listed on the Vinmec International website only costs about $5,000.
Lithuania is a medical tourism destination you might consider in Europe.
The first JCI accredited hospital in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe, Kardiolita Hospital in Vilnius lists cardiac aorto-coronary bypass from around 10,000 euros.
UK patients will be happy to know that the hospital promises no waiting times for procedures.
When you have a holistic view of the world, you give yourself many more options for solving problems, including medical issues.
Paying out of pocket allows you to skip the queues and often save money, including the cost of travel. And you don’t have to sacrifice quality.
For more details on these medical tourism destinations, Sovereign Confidential members can access our report on medical tourism destinations in Latin America hereWhere Asian and European medical tourism destinations here.