I was reading a menu, but I wasn’t in a restaurant.
Tummy Tuck: $1,250
Breast Enlargement: $1,125
Sex change operation: $1,625
I did a double take. Yep, that wasn’t a misprint.
Thailand is renowned for a lot of things– beautiful beaches, crazy nightlife, political instability, etc. One of the things it should be better known for is medical tourism.
People often ask me because I travel so much, “Simon, what would you do if something happened to you– wouldn’t you be scared to go to a hospital in a foreign country?”
In a word, no. In fact, I sincerely hope that I am overseas if some bad accident or disease should happen to befall me, because I’m confident that I won’t die in the waiting room filling out insurance paperwork.
Health care in many developed countries is either bankrupt, too expensive, and/or incompetent. Here in Thailand, private care is among the highest quality and most efficient in the world.
It really makes one wonder which countries should truly be considered ‘developed’…
Bangkok has a few marquee private hospitals– Dusit Medical, and the more famous Bumrungrad. To call them ‘hospitals’ is a bit of a misnomer… realistically they are luxurious 5-star resorts that happen to be staffed with highly-skilled, western-trained physicians.
Whatever is ailing you, they can handle it– plastic surgery, cancer treatment, hip replacement, etc. The nice thing is that the doctors in Thailand are actually free to practice medicine in a low bureaucracy environment without constant fear of regulation or litigation.
This, along with the lower wages in Thailand, results in substantial cost savings. As for the quality? Well, I’d like to pass on a note from my friend Croc who recently had two surgeries at Bumrungrad in Bangkok. Croc is active, fit, in his late 30s.
I have just done something that in the US, or most of the world for that matter, is impossible: three days after arriving in Bangkok, I had underwent two surgeries, complete with the requisite tests and appointments.
For the cost of typical yearly insurance premiums in the US, I had facial plastic surgery, and I had my torn meniscus repaired. What really impressed me, aside from my $360 MRI and my $42 x-ray, was the kindness, professionalism and shocking efficiency of Bumrungrad Hospital.
Thailand is not a country generally known for Swiss organization… but when you consider the financial dire straits that western civilization has found itself in, especially regarding health care, finding efficiency, kindness, quality, and great value at a hospital is certainly worth passing on.
One million patients are treated at Bumrungrad Hospital every year, and roughly six hundred thousand are foreigners. Most of the staff speaks English, and they have translators for just about every language you could imagine.
The hospital’s pricing is out of reach for most local Thais, but Bumrungrad’s a la carte menu of services is priced at a phenomenal discount to what you would pay in the US. There is no shame in being uninsured here. On the contrary, people paying cash are accorded a VIP status.
From the moment I entered the hospital, I was checked-in and awaiting my first consultation in under fifteen minutes. After my initial consultation with an English speaking knee specialist trained at Harvard, I was sliding into a GE-brand MRI machine.
In all, I met with three doctors, had two surgeries, blood work, x-rays, and an MRI. It all cost me around five thousand dollars and took three days. In between visits I sat next to the pool at my hotel getting a twenty-dollar massage.
Bumrungrad makes no bones about its desire to cater to paying foreigners. The business model works, as evidenced by waiting rooms of Arabs, Aussies, Europeans and even a few Americans.
For a few thousand dollars you can actually get some real medical work done in Thailand– teeth cleaning, heart surgery, breast augmentation… you name it, anything is possible here.
Simon again. Thailand is not alone, there are at least a dozen other places in the world with top quality medical care at a paltry cost, and as Croc’s story testifies, there is no sacrifice to quality or service.
For me, medical tourism is the cornerstone of my health care plan. I have a high deductible US insurance plan that covers me against emergencies and catastrophes when I am in the states (only about 3-months each year). For smaller issues, I pay cash at specialty clinics, which I’ve found to be fairly cost effective.
For larger issues, though, I’m on a plane. The cost savings of the medical care alone more than makes up for the travel expenses of the trip.
I’m curious to hear what you think– would you fly to another country for medical care? If not, why not? Bear in mind, the cost savings of the treatment more than covers the travel expense.