Americans are increasingly considering heading outside the country to get medical services ranging from dental work to plastic surgery. A 2017 Global Medial Tourism Market report by OrbisResearch.com shows the market was worth nearly $20 billion in 2016 and is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.8 percent, reaching $46.6 billion by 2021. Despite the lure of lower price tags for procedures including weight loss surgery, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that medical tourism poses risks, including:
- Misunderstandings due to language barriers
- Poor quality of medication
- Risk of blood clots during flight
- Antibiotic resistance
A report on medical tourism, written by bariatric educators and Obesity Action Coalition board members warns that, unlike procedures in the United States that are regulated by physician agencies and oversight organizations to ensure high standards of quality (and unlike comparable agencies in Canada and parts of Europe), many other countries offer no standard of care. Mexico is a top choice of American patients looking for weight loss surgery outside of the country, but patients considering heading there for bariatric surgery should be aware of the risks. Here’s what to consider.
Does weight loss surgery cost less in US or Mexico?
Cost is often one of the most significant factors in the decision to travel to Mexico for weight loss surgery. According to Bariatric Surgery Source, the average weight loss surgery in Mexico will range from around $3,500 to $10,000, depending on the procedure. Bariatric Surgery Source also reports that a non-insured weight loss surgery patient in the U.S. can expect to pay about $8,250 for a gastric balloon surgery up to about $24,300 for gastric bypass surgery.
The good news is, U.S. patients whose insurance covers weight loss surgery can expect to pay about the same or even less than patients who travel to Mexico for the same surgeries.
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In addition to the cost of the surgery, patients heading out of the country should also calculate costs associated with travel. Usually, most surgery procedures in Mexico will include lodging at a hotel, as well as all pre-operative evaluations and post-operative medications and instructions. It’s wise to get a medical tourism insurance policy, too, to protect yourself if any medical complications arise.
Is weight loss surgery in Mexico as safe as US?
While there are some people who will gladly sign up for a discount surgery without worrying too much about their health, any trip out of the country for weight loss surgery (and within, for that matter) requires due diligence during research in order to ensure the safest surgery. In the U.S., you should strive to choose a surgeon who:
- Has experience with your procedure
- Actively participates in continuing education
- Is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, whose members must apply to be accepted and will subsequently be featured through the provider search. Dr. Joseph Naim of Soma Weight Loss is a member.
If you decide you want to travel to Mexico for bariatric surgery, the CDC recommends viewing the qualifications of the foreign healthcare provider and facility and comparing them against the standards set forth by the Joint Commission International (JCI). Bariatric Surgery Source reports only four hospitals in Mexico that perform weight loss surgery have been approved by the JCI (the accreditation process is expensive and lengthy), but you can check a provider you’re considering against the Consejo de Salubridad General, a Mexican health council whose standards are modeled after the JCI standards.
For patients considering non-accredited weight loss surgery providers, additional options are to ask for patient reviews from the provider and/or to search online forums for testimonials. If you decide to visit a clinic instead of a hospital for weight loss surgery, and complications arise, the clinic may send you to a hospital that you haven’t researched.
The more research you can do beforehand on what will happen during all possible scenarios, the more you can look into the hospitals that clinics work with and what their standards are.
Should you get weight loss surgery in Mexico?
Beyond safety considerations, for many weight loss patients, having access to a weight loss support group after surgery is essential to maintaining results. Many clinics in the United States offer free access to such a group with surgery.
If you get weight loss surgery in Mexico, however, you may not be able to join some support groups when you return to the U.S., or you may get charged a fee to do so.
Ultimately, one’s healthcare decisions are individually controlled. While proper exhaustive research can prepare you for undergoing weight loss surgery in Mexico, unforeseen complications during or after the surgery can quickly become even more complicated when the doctor is not close by in your home country. It’s up to you to decide whether or not a nominal discount is worth the risks you incur when considering out-of-the-country surgery.
If you’re considering Soma Weight Loss for weight loss surgery, rest assured: Our practice has completed thousands of successful, safe weight loss surgeries for happy clients. We follow all safe medical procedures and are always here to assist patients with information about any concerns they may have.