Have pain, will travel

by STEVE BREARTON ,  ReportunBusiness.com | 2008-10-31

A restful vacation used to be considered good medicine. Today, medicine increasingly is the vacation. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Canadians and others travelling abroad for surgery spent an estimated $60 billion (U.S.) in 2006, and they're expected to push that figure to $100 billion (U.S.) by 2012. Some nations, such as the Philippines, are even marketing their skills with medical tourism guidebooks, and Taiwan is spending more than $300 million to develop the sector. It seems the idea of sun, surf and surgery is taking off.

Dental (Hungary)

Approx. $800 (U.S.) for a crown

In September, Hungarian dentists toured Britain, offering checkups and estimates from an inflatable PVC tent. Hungary is one of a number of former Eastern-bloc nations hoping to attract travellers for cosmetic and primary dental care.

Heart Bypass Surgery (Singapore)Approx. $18,500

Considering that heart surgery in Singapore costs about 85% less than in the United States, American health insurers are hoping policyholders will start accepting treatments abroad. This year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina signed agreements allowing some insured patients to travel to Singapore for such procedures as bypass surgery.

Kidneys (Pakistan)Approx. $27,000

In June, the American Medical Association released its first guidelines for patients seeking treatments abroad, warning Americans that they would be entering "uncharted waters." An example: Last winter, when Pakistani health officials cracked down on the nation's black market for kidneys, transplants for foreigners were reported to have dropped from 500 a month to fewer than 10.

Executive Physicals, MRIs and CT Scans (Taiwan)$570 to $1,709 (U.S.)

Promising comprehensive physical examinations with state-of-the-art diagnostics, Taiwanese practitioners also offer sightseeing tours as part of the package. Better yet, they advertise facilities that "emit no smell of medicine."

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