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Medical Tourism: Your Guide to Fun, Sun, and Cheap Surgery

by Justin Rohrlich ,  www.minyanville.com | 2009-08-06

Traveling for medical treatment dates back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that Asklepios, the god of healing, smiled upon people who went to Epidauria, the Lourdes of the Saronic Gulf.

Health-care costs in the United States are reaching an all-time high of about $2.4 trillion a year, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many Americans are therefore becoming “medical tourists” -- and bypassing the labyrinthine red tape of HMOs and insurance megaliths like United Health (UNH), Humana (HUM), Cigna (CIG), or Aetna (AET).

Though the reported numbers seem to vary widely, it's been said that in 2008, more than 200,000 Americans traveled abroad for health care. The medical tourism market is currently valued at $20 billion annually; the lion’s share of patients choose India, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Singapore for their procedures.

The most common ones include dental work, heart surgery, orthopedics, cosmetic surgery, neurosurgery, fertility treatments, LASIK eye repair, and oncology. Generally speaking, a medical tourist can expect to pay between 25%-75% less than they would in the States.

The city of Lugansk, Ukraine, for example, is renowned for its dental work. A partial bridge that’d set you back $5,500 in the US costs a paltry $500 there.

As an added bonus, martial arts enthusiasts can enjoy the fact that Lugansk is the hometown of Fedor Emelianenko, the winner of the 1997 Baltic Judo Championship.

Bum shoulder? Head to Latvia, where they’re known for their orthopedic expertise.

Kidneys on the fritz? Jordan is just a flight away, where they specialize in kidney replacements, as well as neurological operations and heart surgery.

Feel like a sex change? Thailand is for you, where the local specialty is gender reassignment.

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