In sharp contrast to conventional wisdom, there are

a number of places outside the U.S. where the cost of medical care can be higher than for the same care at home. In my role as Medical Director for HTH Worldwide, I see proposed treatment plans and cost estimates that would cause patients without travel health insurance serious financial pain. For example,

  • Surgeon’s fee to remove a thyroid gland in China at $9,000. The same procedure would

    cost approximately $1,000 in the U.S., with insurance discounts.

  • Laparoscopic pelvic surgery in South America in the amount of $13,000. Cost is around $7,000 in the U.S. with insurance discounts.
  • Psychotherapy in England may cost as much as $200 per hour. The average therapist in the U.S. would be happy with half that amount.

In addition, many foreign practitioners generate supplemental income by selling prescription medications directly to patients, and think nothing of recommending more expensive alternatives over older, proven therapies. Examples include new antibiotics and tumor necrosis factor blocker medications such as Humira and Enbrel.

Unless travelers protect themselves by purchasing travel health insurance, they will be faced with paying the quoted rate or footing the bill for evacuation to the U.S. for tens of thousands of dollars. Most major U.S. insurers provide spotty coverage for healthcare services obtained while visiting foreign lands—and sometimes none at all. Travel health insurance provides not only coverage, but also a watchful eye to insure that patients receive only effective, evidence-based treatment.


About The Author

Frank Gillingham, M.D. serves as Chief Medical Director for HTH Worldwide. Frank has led HTH Worldwide's international business development efforts in Europe and Canada and has been a guest speaker at international business conferences and has authored a series of articles on travel medicine, including pieces on travel information available on the Internet and the role of physicians working with travel insurers. Frank is a Board-Certified Internist and Emergency Medicine Specialist. He is also a private emergency physician in Southern California and a former emergency department director and member of the UCLA emergency department staff. Frank completed residency training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, received his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine and his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania .

1 Comment

  1. I had no idea that an operation such as removal of thyroid gland costs more than $9000 in China. This is ridiculous.
    This was a nice and timely article.

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