Health Care Bargains Abroad

Patients willing to pack their bags can find significant savings in far-flung locations.

Bruce Pearson owns a nursery, raising orchids and other lush flora in Boynton Beach, Fla. But it was painful sciatica that made his back as delicate as a hothouse flower. While leading an eco-tour in Thailand a few years ago, Pearson experienced back pain so severe that it put him in a local hospital. The treatment he received converted him into an enthusiastic medical tourist. In six months, Pearson was back in Bangkok, at renowned Bumrungrad International Hospital, for a laminectomy—spinal surgery to relieve the pressure on a nerve.

The cost, including a five-day stay in a private room, was $4,700, compared with quotes of $70,000 and higher that Pearson had received in the U.S. Even with insurance, Pearson would have paid nearly $20,000 out-of-pocket here. In Bangkok, his biggest problem, he says, was “choosing between the tuna in red wine sauce and the lobster salad.” Since the 2005 surgery, Pearson, now 65, has been back to Bumrungrad for follow-up back care and three comprehensive physicals—at a cost of about $400 each—that he believes were more thorough than he’d get here. Travelers on Pearson’s eco-tours to Thailand now often seek medical attention, too.

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Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.