Medical Tourism

Originally appeared in Chiang Mai City Life magazine


Youth is wasted on the young.

– George Bernard Shaw


One way you know that you’ve left your youth behind and reached retirement age is when every time you get up from a chair you make strange grunting noises.  And your thoughts more often than you would like center on your health, or lack of it.

If you live all or part of your time in Thailand you may have just lucked out.  The Thai government has decided to market Thailand as a “Medical Tourism” destination.  With its hotel-like hospitals and numerous western trained, highly skilled, English speaking doctors and medical staff, Thailand offers first rate medical care at Third-World prices.

Recently, Thailand and India were featured on a segment of 60 Minutes, the popular CBS news program, showing the high level of care offered in these countries.  Many westerners and people from other Asian countries combine a vacation to Thailand with medical checkups, trips to the dentist, and elective surgeries.  Very popular are procedures not covered by insurance back home, such as cosmetic surgery and dentistry, infertility treatment and laser eye surgery.

In hospitals such as Bumrungrad in Bangkok, Chiang Mai Ram in the north and Bangkok Phuket Hospital in the south, you will see many foreigners getting treatments of all kinds.  They come not only because the cost can be as much as one tenth what it would be at home but because the service comes with normal Thai hospitality and a superior quality of care.

Here is an example.  A friend of mine had to have her pacemaker replaced.  She shopped around California doctors and for this fairly simple outpatient procedure the cost would be between $28,000 and $58,000 depending on whether she needed a day in the hospital or not.  That did not include doctor fees.  She gave a call to Thailand’s Bangkok Heart Hospital and for the same procedure they would charge between $5,000 and $6,500.  She was on a plane the next week.

Although health care here is inexpensive compared to other parts of the world retirees in Thailand might want to protect themselves from any major medical expenses.  Medical insurance is available here from a number of companies.  Bupa,( a Thailand based company, offers inexpensive health insurance.  Other companies such as AIA ( ) and Good Health Worldwide ( offer international coverage.  You could also keep your own medical savings account to deal with major medical problems.

Here is another suggestion of how to use Thailand’s medical system.  Let’s say you have relatives or friends that you would love to visit you here.  But they just can’t afford it.  If they need a medical procedure that isn’t covered by their insurance, or they need a root canal or a dental crown, or liposuction,  tell them they can fly here, have the procedure done, and include a nice tropical vacation at the same time for less than they would probably pay back home for the procedure alone.

And if they need two root canals, they can travel first class all they way.

Read about and view the 60 Minutes story on Medical Tourism: