The medical procedures luring big numbers overseas

Costs and waiting lists the key reasons more Australians are heading offshore.

medical procedures luring big numbers overseas

As private health insurance premiums continue to rise, so too, does the number of Australians heading overseas for medical procedures.

Premiums rose by an average 3.95 per cent in April, with increases having the biggest impact on retiree home-owners on an Age Pension.

The lure of cheaper treatment overseas – particularly in Asian countries – continues to grow.

New research reveals that, for financial reasons and expediency, three in four Australians would go overseas for surgery.

Financial organisation WorldFirst asked 1000 Australians if they would head overseas for surgery, where would they go, and for what procedure.

Dental work was on top of the list, chosen by 60 per cent of respondents. Few dental procedures in Australia are covered by Medicare, and major dental work such as veneers and crowns cost, on average, $1500.

Cosmetic surgery was second on the list, with almost one-third saying they would travel for plastic surgery. In Australia, popular cosmetic procedures such as breast augmentation cost between $11,000 and $14,000, but are closer to $4000 in Thailand, according to research conducted by Leeds University.

The WorldFirst survey found 27 per cent of respondents would travel overseas for cancer treatment, 18 per cent would consider IVF treatments overseas and 17 per cent for eye surgery.

Cost was the major factor for heading offshore, with Transparency Market Research group saying that a rise in compliance to international quality standards in Asian countries was a key driver.

Expediency was another factor. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) said late last year that average waiting times for elective surgeries had risen to 38 days.

AIHW spokesperson Jenny Hargreaves said: “Nationally, the median waiting time – that is, the time within which half of all patients were admitted – has tended to increase since 2012–13.

“It was 36 days in both 2012–13 and 2013–14, 35 days in 2014–15, 37 days in 2015–16, and 38 days in 2016–17.”

The AIHW Private Health Insurance Use in Australian Hospitals report says that public patients are waiting up to four times longer than privately insured patients in public hospitals – 113 days compared to 29 days – for elective operations such as cataract extractions.

The lure of quicker and cheaper results overseas looks set to continue to drive the medical tourism market. However, there are risks involved, some of which include:

  • when your medical procedure is performed in your native country, there is less chance of medical error due to a miscommunication caused by language barriers or cultural differences

  • when your GP performs your medical procedure or recommends the specialist who does, the doctors involved will have access to your previous medical records if problems do arise

  • if something goes wrong, it’s generally easier to get assistance from friends and family in your home country, as well as legal aid.

WorldFirst Head of Foreign Exchange Patrick Liddy also warns: “It’s essential Australians consider all the risks associated with travelling abroad for surgery, including foreign exchange risks. With costs being so important to three-quarters of Aussies, they’ll need to take into account foreign exchange fees and the value of our dollar when paying for surgery and associated travel expenses.”

Writing in The Conversation, Professor Valorie Crooks says that most medical tourists did not travel alone and that the costs and pressure on carers needed to be taken into account.

“The unpaid care work (travelling family and cares) provide to medical tourists is invaluable. I have no doubt that many patients would not even consider medical tourism without someone to accompany them on what can be a painful and challenging journey.

“Yet, in my opinion, the industry does little to protect them.”

Have you travelled overseas for a medical procedure? Would you do it again? Did you have family or a friend accompany you?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Paicey58
    21st Jun 2018
    11:28am
    I have a close friend who had dental treatment in Asia at approximately one third of the cost in Australia. She is very happy with the outcome, cost, cleanliness of the whole procedure. ( she had fillings, veneers etc for her teeth done ).
    Rae
    21st Jun 2018
    3:16pm
    Yes I have two friend who did the same thing and saved tens of thousands of dollars even with airfares and accommodation costs.
    mcc200
    21st Jun 2018
    7:59pm
    I had dental procedures carried out in China 8 years ago and saved an enormous amount of money. I had the procedures checked back in Australia and was advised that the work was first class.
    I now have dental check ups twice a year in China and surprise surprise they do not charge as this is only a check up and this also includes xray.
    The surgery is well equipped with better equipment than in Australia and staffed by caring English speaking professionals

    21st Jun 2018
    12:04pm
    This is the same reason that Australia is losing (has lost?) its manufacturing industry, wages and costs in overseas countries are much, much less than Australia. I wouldn't consider having medical procedures in some of these countries because they may not have the high standard of hygiene that we have come to expect in Australia. Yes, there are good stories but there are also some horror stories on this topic and I wouldn't take the chance.
    Rae
    21st Jun 2018
    3:19pm
    I think our high standards are slipping now Old Man because of the situation with the cleaners all contracted for very little and time constraints.

    Superbugs in our hospitals are not good and are killing too many of the elderly.

    Horror stories happen everywhere.

    Besides the tax cuts passed today almost guarantee there won't be any hospital beds available anyway here.
    Anonymous
    21st Jun 2018
    4:41pm
    Love your generalisations Rae, no proof of your suggestions that high standards are slipping, nothing to back up that cleaners are causing the problem because they are not given enough time to do their job and no proof that superbugs are killing off elderly people.
    What the passing of a tax bill has to do with hygiene in hospitals is like Plibersek's idea of aspirations, it is a mystery.
    Goldbangles
    21st Jun 2018
    12:32pm
    If looking for any Cosmetic surgeries IN Australia, ADELAIDE is touted as the cheapest state to have that type of surgery done. For a small air-fare, you are still within Australia. Not as cheap as overseas.... however the COST is usually lower than any other state.
    KSS
    21st Jun 2018
    12:57pm
    For people considering overseas procedures where they can save 2/3rd the Australian cost, I don't think changes to the currency exchange rate is a particularly strong argument against going overseas for any procedure. It may cost you a few dollars more or less but you are still thousands ahead.

    And the fact is that in the event of an adverse outcome they have the luxury of accessing Australian health services free to sort out the problem.

    And this also does not take into consideration that an increasingly high percentage of Australian are born overseas. Why wouldn't you 'go home' where things are cheaper? A young colleague returned to Russia for eye surgery because it was so much cheaper, even including airfares.
    Nerk
    21st Jun 2018
    1:17pm
    Beats being on the waiting list to get on the waiting list.
    GiGi
    21st Jun 2018
    2:56pm
    Six years ago I paid $9K to have considerable work done in Patong, Thailand (crowns for every tooth on the top, two bridges, a partial plate on the bottom, 3 root canals, six extractions plus significant other work). There was also the cost (maybe $2500) for two trips to Thailand. It would have cost me $20K-$25Kin Australia. I have never had a problem with the work, although I certainly didn't enjoy the lengthy periods spent in the dentists chair (often 4 hours). This was torture (though it is possible that greater assertiveness on my part could have reduced these times).
    MD
    21st Jun 2018
    9:28pm
    "This was torture"...in Thailand GiGi ? I thought the Burma railway had been consigned to the annals of history and oh my, the cost !...in Thailand - you're obviously a masochist.
    patti
    22nd Jun 2018
    12:00pm
    Waiting times for elective surgery 38 Days??? what universe is this? must be for those with private health cover. I've been waiting almost 12 months for surgery, before that waited almost that long just to get a specialist appointment. A friend goes to Thailand every year for dental treatment, airfares and dental cost plus a few days holiday work out cheaper than just the dentist in Aust. He's never had any issues
    beverlyadams0081
    22nd Jun 2018
    4:35pm
    My name is Beverly Adams from United States, I'm here to share my testimony about Dr. Edward Arabba who helped me to cure my HERPES (HSV), i want to inform the public how i was cured from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) , i visited different hospital but they gave me list of drugs like Famvir, Valtrex and Zovirax which is very expensive to treat the symptoms and never cured me. 8 months ago a friend suggested that I should try herbal medicine; from a very powerful herbal doctor called Dr. Edward Arabba that he has been seeing series of testimonies talking about this herbal man. There were lot of people posting their testimonies about how he cured them. when i contacted him, he requested for some information about me and i gave him. He sent me the medication i took it for 7 days and it seriously worked for me, when i went for check up after I finished taking the medication. my HERPES result just came out negative. My doctor was shocked how i got cured. I am so happy as i am sharing this testimony. My advice to you all who thinks that their is no cure for herpes that is not true just contact him and get cure from Dr. Edward Arabba, he can cure any kinds of STD. Remember your health is your wealth. You can contact him with via this email:
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    22nd Jun 2018
    6:25pm
    My name is Beverly Adams from United States, I'm here to share my testimony about Dr. Edward Arabba who helped me to cure my HERPES (HSV), i want to inform the public how i was cured from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) , i visited different hospital but they gave me list of drugs like Famvir, Valtrex and Zovirax which is very expensive to treat the symptoms and never cured me. 8 months ago a friend suggested that I should try herbal medicine; from a very powerful herbal doctor called Dr. Edward Arabba that he has been seeing series of testimonies talking about this herbal man. There were lot of people posting their testimonies about how he cured them. when i contacted him, he requested for some information about me and i gave him. He sent me the medication i took it for 7 days and it seriously worked for me, when i went for check up after I finished taking the medication. my HERPES result just came out negative. My doctor was shocked how i got cured. I am so happy as i am sharing this testimony. My advice to you all who thinks that their is no cure for herpes that is not true just contact him and get cure from Dr. Edward Arabba, he can cure any kinds of STD. Remember your health is your wealth. You can contact him with via this email:
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    MD
    22nd Jun 2018
    8:25pm
    Sounds like an avatar - the second coming of an earlier deity who also did most miracles (listed) and look what happened to him.
    Cat
    6th Jul 2018
    4:57pm
    I would like to have dental implants for 4 missing back teeth. Can anyone recommend an overseas dentist who is good at a cheap cost compare to Australia?
    Cat
    6th Jul 2018
    4:57pm
    I would like to have dental implants for 4 missing back teeth. Can anyone recommend an overseas dentist who is good at a cheap cost compare to Australia?
    Cat
    6th Jul 2018
    4:57pm
    I would like to have dental implants for 4 missing back teeth. Can anyone recommend an overseas dentist who is good at a cheap cost compare to Australia?


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