More Americans traveling abroad for medical treatments - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

More Americans traveling abroad for medical treatments

It sounds too good to be true: Your employer will pay for you to go to an exotic locale! Here's the kicker, though...it's not for vacation or a company retreat. It's for surgery.

By 2012, it's projected that more than 1.6 million Americans will travel abroad for medical procedures. And more and more American companies are jumping on the "medical travel" bandwagon. Companies, of course, save money because the surgical procedures are often cheaper in other countries.

For example, a heart valve replacement surgery in the U.S. could cost $200,000. In India, that same procedure only costs about $10,000. Joint replacement and cosmetic surgeries are also popular "medical tourism" procedures.

Some companies are trying so hard to get workers interested in these travel procedures that they're even offering to split the difference in savings with them. Also provided: Free airfare for the patient and a companion, free hotel, car service, interpreters, even sightseeing and food money!

There are companies -- like PlanetHospital -- that help coordinate all of the details. PlanetHospital's founder says the top locales for these surgeries include Australia, Singapore, and Mexico.

It all still sounds pretty great, right?

Here are the downsides: Your health insurance may not cover the procedure, or you may be required to buy an additional liability policy. And it can be more difficult to research a doctor and surgical facility in another country, particularly if you aren't fluent in the language. Not to mention, you may also be at greater risk for certain dangerous infections, and may find post-operative care isn't up to the standards we expect here in the United States.

If you're thinking about embarking as a medical tourist, make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and talk to your insurance company about your options.

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