Expatriates and International Medical Tourism

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Asia has, in recent years, become one of the favorite destinations for international expatriates who want to experience life outside of their home country. With a myriad of opportunities and some of the fastest developing countries in the world, Asia has long had a reputation for allowing individuals to lead a different type of life. Countries such as China, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia (just to name a few), have seen a massive influx of foreign nationals searching for new opportunities and a touch of oriental excitement. There is, however, one major issue that many Asian expatriates frequently voice concern over, and this is the state of the healthcare system throughout the Asian region.

Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia are increasingly becoming known as medical tourism destinations, but what exactly is medical tourism? A basic explanation for this relatively new international phenomenon is this; because of the high costs associated with medical care in countries like the USA, residents of these nations are choosing to travel overseas to places where the treatment costs are much less expensive. For example, the costs associated with a hip replacement operation in the USA can be between USD $50,000 and $70,000, depending on the type of medical facility that the patient uses and the extent of the surgery.

A price tag of USD $50,000 means that this operation, even if it is a medical necessity, is out of reach for many people. It is worth knowing however, that this same operation, in a Thai hospital, such as Bumrungrad International, will typically have a total cost of between USD $10,000 - $20,000. This massive price reduction is the prime factor in the medical tourism industry. Many Asian hospitals and medical facilities have the ability to be extremely competitive on the open market in terms of the costs associated with various treatments. Though the costs associated with hospitals and clinics throughout the Asian region are much lower than those in the West, USD $20,000 is still a lot of money. Even when the hospitals facilities and the overall quality of service are factored into the price, it can be hard for the average individual to obtain the necessary funds for an operation of this importance.

Many Asian countries have the ability to offer high quality medical services at lower prices than almost anywhere else in the world. Thailand, for instance, ranks in the same global cost bracket for medical expenses as countries like Belgium, Austria, Germany, and Finland; primarily western European nations that have wide spread social healthcare systems. However, in receiving the low costs associated with many European healthcare services you must be a citizen of that country, otherwise the prices are equitable to those in the USA.

This is not the case in Thailand and many other Asian Pacific nations. Many Asian hospitals and medical facilities are privately run. This allows these institutions to reduce their overall running costs by making internal decisions, rather than relying on a set of government policies. Running many hospitals like resorts allows these Asian nations to offer more than just treatment to their patients. With the addition to the low costs of living associated with many Asian countries that allows these facilities to lower staff costs while still employing the very best doctors, one can see that there is a reason for the low costs at Asian hospitals and medical centers of excellence. Many of the foreign nationals, who receive treatments in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand every year, would have never visited these countries if it were not for the low costs of healthcare. By providing patients with the ability to see, explore, and understand the country while they are healing, Asian hospitals bring more to the table than just operation, surgery and treatment.

It should not be understood, however, that surgeries and treatments in any hospital, specifically those in Asia, are affordable. They may be more affordable than what many people are used to, but they are still expensive.

We have a large number of experienced medical consultants that would be pleased to answer any of your questions or provide you with quotes for international major medical insurance. Feel free to contact us and we will ensure your enquiry is replied to via telephone or email within 24 hours.