Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Friends, The Medical Tourists: Read Their Stories Here

I have three friends who are medical tourists. These women can periodically fly abroad, but could not afford regular health care in this country. Two of them women are white; one is from the Caribbean. Ages 30-58. Two of them had big successes; one almost died.

Here are their stories.

Dental and Full Health Care in Argentina

I have a 58-year-old friend who was born in Argentina to Polish parents. She still has lots of friends there. She recently showed up at my dinner table with new adult braces. They are hidden braces behind her teeth.

For a total of $3,000 she had about $9,000 worth of dental work done in Argentina. Here's what she had done:

  • Porcelain veneers on a few teeth
  • Five crowns
  • Adult, hidden braces. "These are very expensive," she said.
  • A few tooth implants

"I had extensive work done," she said. She was also very impressed with the technology. Instead of the old-school x-rays that she has seen in most dental offices in the States, her dentist in Argentina examined her teeth with a digital camera linked to a computer.

Her plane ticket was $780 and she could have spent only $450 for a round trip ticket to Argentina. However, she was not able to get the cheaper ticket because of a time crunch.

Meanwhile, she spent a total of $400 for a comprehensive physical, two appointments, blood work and a five-page report about her health.

This is what she received for $400

  • two gyn visits
  • mammogram
  • internal (vaginal area) sonogram
  • bone density test
  • blood and urine analysis

She estimates that in the U.S., she would have paid $400 for just two doctors visits, but without the full battery of tests.

The Downside:

I asked her about kidnapping fears and she said yes that can be an issue in Argentina. But she knows which areas to avoid, and she dressed correctly. A friend in that country chided her for wearing an expensive watch in the street. But she's not worried about traveling to South America for health care: Besides, she told me, kidnapping is a risk anywhere, including Miami.

Why Medical Tourism works for her

  • She always visits Argentina anyway.
  • She's lived there.
  • She has friends who are familiar with the medical system in that country. "I requested recommendations from my friends for doctors and dentists," she told me.
  • Combining a vacation with a medical tune-up works because she can afford a plane ticket, but can not afford the cost of insurance or health care in the U.S.

Gastro-Bypass in the Caribbean

Another friend of mine--born in the Caribbean, living in the States--had weight-loss bypass surgery at a state-of-the art facility in the Caribbean. She did her homework and found a doctor that came with pedigree and recommendations. The price was right, but complications developed and she almost died.

Either later tonight or tomorrow, I'll have the rest of the story and the tale of a German waitress in Miami, who flies home to Europe for medical care.


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