My dentist in Mexico studied in the U.S., does great work, and is seldom in a hurry. He gets all the local gringo business and probably charges more as a result, yet what our family of three paid over the course of a year there was about 1/4 what it would have cost in a mid-sized U.S. city.
Afar magazine ran an infographic earlier this year in the print edition that showed approximate costs for different procedures in the USA vs. what it would cost you elsewhere. Almost anywhere in the world is cheaper than here for health care, of course, for a long list of reasons: high insurance/litigation, high doctor payments, a for-profit system, insurance company lobbyist power, and an upside-down system where it’s easier to get reimbursed for a problem than prevention.
Here are a few examples from their list though:
Fertility treatment: $15,000 USA, $4,400 Costa Rica
Hip replacement: $33,000 USA $12,500 in Mexico
Knee replacement: $34,000 USA, $16,500 Singapore (half again in Mexico, from what I’ve heard locally)
Coronary bypass: $88,000 USA, $21,000 Taiwan
Gastric bypass: $25,000 USA, $8,200 Malaysia
Spinal fusion: $41,000 USA, $9,500 India
Here’s a link to a great medical costs chart in the Washington Post showing what standard procedures like CT scans, MRIs, and C-section deliveries cost. A few zingers from that:
Having a baby the normal way: $9,280 here, $1,291 Argentina
C-section delivery: $14,374 here, $3,145 Spain
Hospital overnight stay: $3,949 here, $632 Germany
The only procedure on the chart where the U.S. was not the most expensive was for cataract surgery. Apparently Switzerland is more pricey for that.
Now back to dental work, which has a huge disparity and it’s something you spend money on regularly even if you’re in good health. A crown that will set you back $750 – $900 in the United States will cost 1/3 that in Hungary or Costa Rica—and get done faster. If you have seen the prices on Groupon for a dental check-up and cleaning at half price, half it again and that’s probably what you will pay in Mexico.
For even minor procedures, if you have a co-pay and a big deductible (or you’ve got nothing), getting it done overseas can save you serious money, even when you factor in travel costs.
One specific one to keep in mind if you’re departing on a long round-the-world trip: vaccinations. Some require a series of shots over time. A couple times when circling the globe I got the second or third one in Bangkok instead of locally. Sure, it was a bit of a hassle, but it cut the cost in half.
What have you had done abroad that has saved you a bundle?