The Pros and Cons of Medical Tourism
Life + Money

The Pros and Cons of Medical Tourism

Palm Coast, Fla. resident Helen Hyjek learned the pitfalls of medical tourism the hard way when she underwent a nightmare dental operation in Costa Rica, reports Greg Warmoth from WFTV News.

Like Hyjek, medical tourism has been on the rise as cash-strapped consumers look to overseas practitioners for cheap procedures that cost a fortune in the U.S.

Since Hyjek had no dental insurance, she opted for Costa Rica, where she could get the dental implants she needed at a third of the American price tag.

Now that the work is done, Hyjek told Warmoth that her implants are too big, causing her gums to bleed and her mouth to constantly hurt. She has been back to the country three times to get the problem fixed but says each time nothing changes.

In all, she's shelled out $15,000––cash she'll likely never see again. While there's no denying some countries have health care systems that more than rival the U.S., it's wise to weigh your options before taking a chance on international medical care. Here are some pros and cons:

The Pros

No Line: Unlike America, where there can be waiting lists of a year or longer for some procedures, you can often get scheduled for procedures in other countries without any wait at all,according to Investopedia.

Price: One of the major reasons why people even consider going abroad for major healthcare procedures is the cost difference. For example, without insurance a knee replacement will cost between $41,000 and $59,000 in the U.S. but only $8,500 in India, according to the American Medical Association.

Good Doctors: There plenty of great docs to be found overseas, but do your homework first. Make sure that your hospital takes the necessary safety precautions that you expect by checking that it has been accredited by the Joint Commission International. Also, opting for a country like South Korea, which has an established first rate medical system, over a smaller, less developed country gives you a much better chance of having the procedure done right.

The Cons

No Safety Net: As health care executive James R. Goldberg points out, there aren't any international agreements protecting the safety of medical patients in other countries. So if something goes wrong, you could be completely helpless. In some countries you may not even be covered by a U.S. attorney if a procedure goes awry.

Outdated Equipment:   Certain procedures like ones done for weight loss may be a lot cheaper abroad but they're probably a lot more dangerous too. In countries like Turkey and India, doctors may be tempted to take advantage of the lack of regulation abroad and save money by using outdated tools and equipment.

More from Business Insider:

11 Personal finance equations everyone should know