Need to get major medical or dental work done? Consider this to save tons of money.

cancun-mexico-dentistWhen you get older, many people end up having problems with their teeth, and I am no exception. The problem is, it’s nearly cost prohibitive here in the United States. Continue on with getting bye, or force yourself into massive debt. There are alternatives though, especially if you’re facing a mountain of dental bills. It’s no secret, people do it all the time for other medical operations. They simply take a trip, and save over half of what they would have paid while they get a vacation out of the deal. Below, I’ll take a quick peek at what you should consider when it comes to getting work done on your teeth and other types of surgery.

I couldn’t write it better than medicalnomad.com on how to decide if this is right for you, so I’m going to quote their advice:

Step by Step Guide

You’ve already taken a good first step, which is consulting with the MedicalNomad team and our growing community of contributors! Use this website as a tool to help you make a smart, safe, and financially sound decision about how best to pursue the health care services you require and desire.

* Step 1: Educate yourself and learn from others
* Step 2: Determine whether medical tourism is right for you
* Step 3: Consider your health care options
* Step 4: Decide what kind of trip you want to take
* Step 5: Choose a Provider or Broker
* Step 6: Research Your Destination
* Step 7: Calculate your finances
* Step 8: Determine dates of travel
* Step 9: Secure passports and visas
* Step 10: Prepare records and paperwork
* Step 11: Plan for post-procedure recovery and assistance
* Step 12: Take your trip!

Step 1: Educate yourself and learn from others

Explore the ins-and-outs of the emerging medical tourism industry. Visit our Medical Tourism links to learn more about medical tourism and how it works, as well as read about accreditation, financial, tax, and travel health considerations. Visit our Procedures and Providers links to locate providers abroad that offer the procedure you are seeking and compare provider credentials, costs, and services. Visit our Destinations link to research the countries you might travel to, plan the logistics of your trip, and consider travel options beyond your medical procedure. Consult our Blog, News, and Forum pages to access a broad spectrum of information about medical tourism, and learn from and dialogue with other medical tourists who have been or are going through a process like your own.
Step 2: Determine whether medical tourism is right for you

Are you a good candidate for medical tourism? Is the specific procedure you want or need available abroad with reputable providers? After adding in travel and accommodation costs, is it still more affordable to have the procedure done abroad? Does your calendar allow for both the associated travel time, and, if necessary, recovery time abroad before returning home? Does the procedure in question often involve complications, and, if so, what kinds of precautionary and logistical arrangements will you want to make? Do you want or need to arrange for a traveling companion? These are all questions for you to consider as you decide whether and how to pursue high quality and affordable health care abroad. Consult our Providers, Procedures, and Destinations listings to access information about your medical options, and use our Blog and Forum link to communicate with others who can help you in your planning. If you still have questions, ask our expert for advice as to the suitability of medical travel for your particular condition and circumstances.
Step 3: Consider your health care options

There are a range of possible models for how to go about seeking affordable and high quality health care abroad. Many providers, in Thailand, India, Costa Rica, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, and elsewhere, provide direct links to their services via the Internet (see our Provider Directory ). Many will help facilitate your travel and accommodation logistics, alongside arranging medical services. Take note of the different kinds of providers that are out there — ranging from major hospitals to smaller clinics and private practices — as you decide what is the best fit for your medical needs. An alternative to working directly with a provider is to consider going through a company that operate as a full-service broker or concierge service. These companies typically arrange the full spectrum of a medical trip abroad, connecting you to health providers, making logistical arrangements for your medical care and travel, and often providing a single, lump-sum total for the entire package. Such brokers, whether based in the U.S. or Europe, or in another country or region, often have established working relationships with a set number of providers covering a range of medical procedures. Early on it is important to consider both the potential advantages (convenience, expertise) and disadvantages (limited choice, possible brokerage fees) of working with a broker as you decide what course of action to take in satisfying your health care needs.
Step 4: Decide what kind of trip you want to take

Is this going to be a strictly practical trip for medical, dental, or cosmetic purposes, or do you want to add a vacation alongside your health services? If it’s the former, then you can move ahead with your plan of action for getting the best possible services at the best price. If you want to add a further vacation element to your trip, then you need to make additional plans, keeping in mind the following factors: timing (before or after your procedure), seasonal factors (high or low tourist season and weather variables), visas (if beyond a standard tourist visa), additional costs and logistics of travel and accommodation. In particular, consider whether you are going to arrange a package tour ahead of time through a travel agency, or whether you are going to “wing it” as an independent traveler. Check our Tax Considerations link to see how a vacation element may affect your ability to deduct expenses. Again, be realistic in assessing your own levels of experience in international travel. Furthermore, if you are planning further travel after your treatment, be sure to anticipate how vigorous and adventurous you will be feeling post-treatment.
Step 5: Choose a Provider or Broker

If time allows don’t rush your decision. Shop around. See what’s out there. Read news stories about medical tourism in different countries, and, when possible, about specific providers and procedures. Compare stories. Consult with former medical tourists. Track down testimonials, on our Forum and elsewhere, to read stories by previous medical nomads as they describe their experiences and evaluate their medical providers and/or brokers. In the process, keep a few key factors in mind. Many of the medical services available abroad are of the highest international standards, often times of equal quality to the level of care available in the U.S. or Europe. That said, qualities of care do vary, and it is wise to read up on the experiences others have had with specific providers. Likewise, it is prudent to determine a prospective provider’s levels of national or international accreditation or certification. Is a provider that you are considering accredited by a country-level association or government body? Even more notably, is it accredited by an international association like the Joint Commission International (JCI) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). (See our Provider Directory for information on each provider’s JCI and ISO status and read our discussion of Accreditation.) Also note that some international providers have direct institutional links to U.S. or European-based medical associations. Harvard University, for example, has affiliate medical providers in Turkey, Greece, India, China, and Thailand, while John Hopkins University has providers in Lebanon, Panama, Singapore, Turkey, and elsewhere. Consult our Providers links and visit individual provider’s websites to evaluate levels of national and international accreditation and affiliation.

Some providers have more experience with medical tourists than others, and may be able to better manage the logistics of your medical visit, including, if necessary, language translation. If the health care you are seeking involves multiple visits and a lengthy recovery time, you may want to go with a provider who has experience dealing with foreign patients. On the other hand, if you are confident in your own ability to negotiate the logistics of your own travel and accommodation, you might consider a broader range of potential providers. Be realistic on this front, regarding your own experience as an international traveler, and regarding the condition you will be in post-procedure. If the treatment you are seeking involves substantial surgery and post-op recovery time, you may want to go with a more full-service provider or broker. If you have the time, it makes good sense to make contact with more than one potential provider, and to let each of them know that you are shopping around. This will allow you to get a feel for different providers, in terms of their professionalism, responsiveness, and service orientation, as well as to compare costs and potentially negotiate a better deal for yourself.

Once you have decided on a provider or a broker, be sure to get all arrangements and agreements affirmed via a written/digital contract, which clearly spells out the specific services guaranteed to you at the agreed-upon price. Read over this contract carefully to be sure that the cost and scope of those services are clearly delineated. Take note whether taxes and/or gratuities are included in the cost totals. Remember that commercial interests are driving many of those working in the medical tourism industry, so beware of efforts to inflate or hide costs, or worse, cut corners on treatment. Get the scope of your treatment outlined in as full detail as possible.

Step 6: Research Your Destination (top)

Whether you are going for a quick, in-and-out, medical, dental, or cosmetic procedure, or are going to complement it with a vacation on the side, it is worth your time to learn beforehand about the country you are visiting! Spend some time to consider all of the following:

* Climate and terrain (Is it rainy or dry season? What elevation will you be at?)
* Language competencies (Can you rely on encountering English-speakers regularly? If not, how will you manage your communication?)
* Cost of living. (What is the range of prices for local accommodation? What does a meal, beer, or a cup of coffee cost?)
* Cost and means of travel. (Are taxis, buses, trolleys, or other forms of public transport available? How expensive are they? How costly is it to rent a car? )
* Public health considerations (Is the tap water drinkable? Is it recommendable to eat food from street kiosks? Is malaria a concern?)
* Public safety (Will you be in a large city? If so, what precautions should you take?)
* Local custom and etiquette (Are there specific standards of dress that are appropriate? What are expectations for tipping and other gratuities?)
* Local sites of interest. (What is there to see in the area? What do the travel guides recommend seeing and doing? What will you kick yourself for not having done once you get home again?)

Once you’ve settled on a destination, use our MedicalNomad Travel Info and CDC Tips links to begin planning and making the most of your trip.

Step 7: Calculate your finances (top)

If you are planning to cover the costs of your own medical trip abroad, you need to carefully consider, compare, and calculate the various costs that will arise in your medical travel. In addition to the cost of your health care procedures, these costs may include:

* Cost of passport and/or travel visas
* Travel: Flights, airport pick-up, travel to-and-from medical provider
* Accommodations
* Food and drink
* Tips and gratuities
* Visa costs
* Calls and other correspondence with family at home
* Medications or medical supplies (crutches, etc.) for use during post-procedure recovery time.

If you are going with a broker, they will handle many if not all of the above logistics and costs as a part of their service fee. Be clear about what services are provided in their fees and get their commitments to you in writing before your trip.

Even while you should anticipate having to cover most or all of these costs on your own, you should nevertheless contact your medical insurer to see whether a necessary medical procedure can be fully or partially covered, in particular if your only other option is to have a more expensive procedure done in the U.S. or Europe. Be sure to determine ahead of time whether or not the condition being treated can be considered a “pre-existing condition” by your insurer, as they will not cover it if defined as such.

During your negotiations with your provider or broker, be sure to establish the means of payment ahead of time, whether by credit card, checking account, or cash. Also, be sure to establish the timing of payment in advance and explore a range of possible payment plans, including payments by installment. Some providers require a minimum down payment or deposit before your procedure, sometimes as high as 50% of the total cost. Be sure you are dealing with a reputable provider or broker and have received a valid contract before making any down-payment.

You should also explore whether or not the medical costs you incur on your trip might be tax deductible. Towards that end, consult with your national tax bureau or agency to determine policies and regulations. For more information, see:

* Tax Considerations

Step 8: Determine dates of travel (top)

With as much advance notice as possible, present one or more possible dates for travel to the health care provider or broker you have decided to work with. Keep several factors in mind as you plan and arrange your travel and health care services:

* Peak travel dates to-and-from the country you will be visiting. The price for airline tickets and accommodations can vary dramatically.
* Weather conditions in your destination and how they might play into your post-op recovery and comfort.
* Treatment and recovery-time requirements.

Be sure to check prices and availability on travel dates before confirming treatment dates with a provider. If you are arranging your own travel to your destination country, you may want to consult some of the following websites to compare prices and dates:

* Expedia Travel
* Hotwire
* Cheap Seats
* Travelocity
* Airline Consolidator
* Discountfares.com
* Courier
* Air Treks
* Sky Auction

Step 9: Secure passports and visas (top)

If you do not already have a passport, begin the process of getting one well in advance of your planned trip. Routine processing for a new passport typically takes about six weeks, though expedited services can cut the processing time to two weeks or less if you are willing to pay. If you already have a passport, check to see that it is still valid and will remain so through the course of your travel.

Consult the following websites to learn how to acquire a passport and to determine visa policies for your destination country:

* Passports – U. S. State Department
* Consulate Info – U. S. State Department
* American Passport Express
* It’s Easy Passport

Depending on your destination country, you may or may not be able to secure a Tourist Visa upon arrival at the airport. Be sure to determine ahead of time whether that is the case, or whether you need to arrange for a visa ahead of time with a representative Embassy or Consular Office. Also, be sure to note the duration of visas to be sure they are sufficient for your travel plans, and, if applicable, to take note of visa policies for visa extensions and multiple entries/exits from a country. Consider registering with your nation’s embassy or consular office upon arrival in your destination country. Be sure to take note of the costs of securing a passport and/or a visa so you can figure them into your travel costs.

Step 10: Prepare records and paperwork (top)

Plan for how you are going to transfer or carry your medical records to you overseas medical provider, as well as for bringing records of your procedure home with you. In particular, you will need to decide whether to carry paper versions of your records with you or have them digitized and transferred electronically.

For further information on keeping personal medical records, and on ways to go about digitizing them, consult the following websites:

* Medical Privacy – U. S. Health And Human Services
* Personal Medical Records – Medline Plus
* Med Imaging
* Records For Living
* Follow Me
* Capmed
* Mymedicalrecords.com

Step 11: Plan for post-procedure recovery and assistance (top)

As with any medical, dental, or cosmetic procedure, the hope is that all will go according to plan and schedule. Yet, even while anticipating a smooth procedure, one must still be diligent about planning for the recovery period. Likewise, for the sake of prudence and caution, one should anticipate possible complications and make arrangements ahead-of-time. Some things to consider: How much recovery time will your procedure entail? If you will be hospitalized, for how long? In terms of your post-op recovery and taking medications, how soon afterwards will you be able to travel? to fly? Will you require special care or assistance after your procedure? What are your contingency plans in case of complications during the procedure or recovery times? Should you consider having a close friend or family member travel with you to provide support? Who is your emergency contact? Do they have information about your location and procedure schedule, as well as detailed information for how to contact your provider? Whether you are working directly with a provider or through a broker, be sure to address all of these questions and concerns beforehand, and to get a firm estimate/assessment of costs and scheduling. You do not want to have to deal with these factors for the first time after your procedure, so don’t get caught off guard!

Standards of legal protection for patients vary dramatically from country to country. Once you have chosen a provider, do your best to educate yourself about what legal protections, if any, are guaranteed to you as a visiting patient. Consult with a country embassy or consular office before leaving, and use the web to research patient protection laws.

Step 12: Take your trip! (top)

Enjoy your well-planned trip, get healthy, save money, and come back ready to tell others about it!

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