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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Medical Tourism in Argentina

Today our article, suggested by a reader, is about medical tourism here in Argentina. Medical tourism has been in the news lately. There seem to be providers popping up all over the world. There are tourist hospitals in India, Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia that have been doing a booming business the last few years catering to tourists.

South America is finally getting in on it as well. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Costa Rica, the airport was filled with ads -- in English -- for plastic surgery centers. For the same price as a nose job or a breast augmentation in the U.S., you could go to Costa Rica, get the same procedure, and recover in a 5 star resort with people waiting on you hand and foot. Sounds good to me. It appears there's at least one company in Argentina now that is catering to this market. Here's the comment from our reader.

Reader's Comment

I've started planning a trip to Buenos Aires. I'm going to get Lasik surgery and am using Plenitas. Are you familiar with the idea of "surgery touring"? I believe Europeans do it more than North Americans. Everybody I talk to thinks I'm crazy for going to South America for something like surgery and I'm tired of explaining that Buenos Aires is a first class city as sophisticated as New York, that it's the Paris of the New World, etc. I don't think I have anything to worry about; do you?

Great Healthcare

This is a very timely question. Just yesterday I signed up for a health plan with Hospital Alemán, which is within walking distance of my new apartment. For just $160 pesos per month (about $55 USD), you get a health plan similar to one in the U.S., but with no deductibles and no co-pays. There is also a 50% drug benefit as well. Quite simply, this is amazing. Clearly the private healthcare system here is doing something right. When I investigated HMOs in the U.S., I'd be paying $350 USD per month along with co-pays, obviously. I ultimately went with a high deductible PPO plan, since I'm not sick too often.

Even ignoring the exchange rate issue for one moment -- assuming the peso was 1:1 with the U.S. Dollar, the price would still be less than half of what you'd pay in the U.S. for insurance. That's pretty amazing if you ask me. The fact is, they have doctors here that come to your house when you're sick, so you don't have to get out of bed, go to some office, and wait there with all the other sick people and catch who knows what else. Whatever it is, they're doing something right.

Medical Tourism in Argentina

I have no experience with these medical tourism companies, but the fact is, I'm sure they're just marketing organizations. There is no hospital here called Plenitas. You might save yourself some money if you just came here and directly went to one of the better hospitals here (they all have country themes, i.e. the German Hospital, English Hospital, Swiss Hospital, etc.) and meet with the various doctors and choose one you are most comfortable with. All the hospitals have doctors that speak English. I don't know that it is necessary to go with one of these medical tourism companies.

In general, I think it is a great idea to have medical procedures done abroad. If I needed something done, I'm sure I'd do it here. It makes no sense to pay thousands and thousands out of pocket when you can take a 12 hour plane flight and pay less than half for the same procedure with the same level of quality. Unfortunately, most of the American public has been indoctrinated by the F.D.A. and the Federal Government to believe that medicine outside the borders of the U.S. is somehow "unsafe".

I especially get cracked up when I hear the government or the drug companies saying how they can't vouch for the safety of the drugs that are imported from Canada. For years drug companies have been relocating their factories outside U.S. borders to save on labor costs and their international factories are kept up to F.D.A. standards with regular inspections, etc. The only difference is whether they put a U.S. label on the bottle or a Canadian one. They just charge five times more for the U.S. bottle. They're all the same pills.

So, don't believe the lies, come to Buenos Aires, and check things out for yourself. You don't need some government "expert" who's on the payroll of the American medical establishment to tell you whether it is safe to do a procedure outside the country. Come here, talk to the doctors, look at the facilities yourself, and then make up your own mind. Make sure they're up to your standards and then you will be the one who decides whether to do the procedure or not.

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Blogger rickulivi said...

Often value is determined by the quality of the service. Don't be fooled into thinking that low prices and home visits equals high quality care. You can loose your money, your girl/boy friend, but you better not loose your health.

7/27/2005 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger said...

Plans like the Hospital Aleman are good ones but be aware of your coverage (or lack thereof) while you travel throughout Buenos Aires, the rest of Argentina and other countries, where it is more likley something more along the lines of major medical needs to come into play.

7/27/2005 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

This is a very interesting trend. I agree with El Expat - you must decide for yourself the value of your healthcare decisions by in person interviews and/or research of the various options. But just because you may pay more in the U.S., it is certainly not guarantee that the results or medical care will be any better. This is the assumption that most U.S. citizens is just not correct. I, too, believe that we have been lead to this conclusion by big business. And, make no mistake - the insurance and healthcare industry - including the physicians and pharmaceutical companies - is BIG, BIG business.

This blog is important - it is difficult to get this sort of information and perspective anywhere else! Thank you.

7/29/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Vivian G said...

I have a question. Many people in the US get their medicine from Canada because it is so much cheaper. I have family in Argentina and know that medicine over there is about 1/3 of the price. Is it legal for them to send my medication from Argentina via mail? Is it legal to receive it here in the US?

7/31/2005 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger familiaoconnell said...

Two things:

We have lived here several years and the care is cheaper and better. Not only is the actual medical care state of the art (there is tons of medical research done here, especially cancer research) the quality of the conversation and dialogue you have with your doctor is so much better. What can be better than having a qualified doctor come to your house to attend to your sick kid in bed and arrange to have medicine delivered to your house. I know of several expats that have relatives on chemo come here to do their cycles because it is a more gentle and human approach to treatment. I have a child with type one diabetes and the care is comparable to what we were receiving at Yale and I have the doctors home phone number. Regarding sending medicine in the mail. We dont send anything let alone medicine in the is notoriously slow or just doesnt get where you want it to go. We use Fdex when sending stuff to the States. Technically medicine requires special customs documentation and proof that it is a licensed product in the US. It might be more trouble than its is worth.

8/02/2005 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger ABA said...

Elizabeth is correct. I happen to know a thing or two about the health care industry because that was the industry I was in before I decided to move to Buenos Aires. Simply put, the healthcare system in the USA is broken. The type of medical care you get these days from primary care physicians is like a revolving door. They get you in as fast as they can and get you out as fast as you can.

The medical care here in Buenos Aires is very good and there are many highly trained physicians. In fact, my personal physician did his medical school at UCLA and lived in the USA for many years when he got fed up with the system there and decided even if he couldn't make a lot of money here it's a better quality of life. He speaks perfect English. You wouldn't even know he was Argentine by looking or talking to him.

Now that I'm in the tourism industry (sort of as I own and manage many apartment rentals)...part of my business plan was to get more cosmetic surgery patients as clients. That turned out to be a good idea as many people are coming to Argentina for cosmetic surgery.

Do your research and you will find very good physicians here in Buenos Aires.

8/09/2005 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger Patagonia Traveler said...

I have all my maintaince work done in BA. Very good doctors there. Its a different system, but one that I dont find objectionable.
I will detail more later.

9/07/2005 02:41:00 AM  
Blogger Medical Tourism said...

South America is definitely attracting its fair share of medical tourists. Many American medical tourism companies however continue to focus on countries such as India, Malaysia, Philippines to name a few. Some American medical tourists fly down to Canada before going to Cuba to get their ailments attended to.
Visit Medical Tourism Portal for more info.

12/15/2005 03:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a doctoral student in cultural anthropology studying medical tourism to Argentina. I think this is a fascinating new development, and I'm especially interested in people's experiences.

If anyone has suggestions of doctors or other service providers I should be in touch with, I would really appreciate it.


Emily McDonald

1/16/2007 11:20:00 PM  

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