Welcome to Costa Rica, one of the fastest growing tropical getaway for those seeking affordable medical care.
Reuters is reporting Costa Rica is competing with India, Brazil, Panama and Mexico for the title of top medical tourism destination. Its proximity to the United States gives it a significant competitive advantage, in comparison to further locations, like India.
Many people are coming to Costa Rica not for the pristine beaches and world renowned bio-reserves but instead for significant cost savings on medical procedures.
Medical procedures in the USA can upwards of 80 percent higher than in Costa Rica.
A perfect example is dental procedures such as a tooth replacement where the cost can reach $10,000 but in Costa Rica cost $4,000, including airfare, hotel stay, and meals for two weeks.
The number of people arriving for similar reasons is increasing. According to Costa Rica’s tourism institute ICT, about 40,000 medical tourists visited last year. In 2010 it was 36,000 and in 2009 there were 30,000 visitors. The institute revealed most of them are American and Canadian.
Promed, the council for international promotion of medicine in Costa Rica, stated there were 15,000 people traveling just for more affordable dental care and estimates medical tourism brought $196 million to Costa Rica’s health industry in 2011, with patients spending an additional $84 million in hotel accommodations, food and shopping.
Many patients traveling are uninsured, however, but with the new US healthcare reformed requiring Americans to get basic health insurance by 2014 could reduce the demand, some believe, other see the opposite effect, depending on the law is written.
While many doctors in the United States discourage patients from traveling overseas for cheaper treatments because of the lack of follow-up care, the rise of medical procedures conducted in Costa Rica is still high.
The U.S. is taking notice. Several insurance companies, like Cigna Corp, Satori and Blue Cross Blue Shield are reportedly expanding their supplier network to include overseas clinics.
The 2012 Medical Tourism Facts and Figures study, released recently by the International Medical Travel Journal (IMTJ), forecasts that medical travel will remain “a self-pay industry” – because health insurers are not interested, for health insurers, “the downsides seem too many,”.
Again depending on the final version of Obamacare, many individuals may take the “fine” for not acquiring health care insurance to save on medical travel to places like Costa Rica.