Medical tourism for arthroscopic knee surgery…in the U.S.?!

When I learned I would need an arthroscopic meniscectomy knee surgery, I had to hustle to figure out how to pull it off financially.

My insurance deductible is $8,000. The surgery at home was going to be $25,000. I had already spent about $1,000 out of pocket for doctors visits and the MRI (I had moved to a city that did not accept my insurance).

I was told it was a simple, common, and routine surgery that took less than an hour. So why was it $25,000? (Because I live in the U.S., duh.)

I had a great dental tourism experience at American BioDental in Tijuana to repair some broken teeth. I had a great dental experience in Costa Rica too.

S0 the first place I looked for arthroscopic knee surgery was Mexico. I was surprised all the prices were coming in at around $5,500. Plus the idea of being alone and disabled with an injury in Mexico was not appealing at all. It’s one thing to travel to another country with a couple of broken teeth, quite another to travel on crutches with an injury.

As I continued deep diving the internet I came across something that was completely new to me: Medical tourism in the United States.

Eventually this led to the search term, “cash pay surgery center.” And that was when I started to find options.

I found a few places in the south, which makes sense. Overhead is probably cheaper than on the west coast.

But that was a long way to travel, so I narrowed my search down to two closer places: Cedar City Orthopedic Surgery Clinic in Cedar City, (middle of nowhere?) Utah and Pacific Surgical Center in Longview, Washington.

Both list flat-fee prices on their website, no hidden costs. I didn’t know what to think, it seemed surreal given our current health “don’t care” climate.

Pacific was a three-hour drive away so naturally that was my first choice, even though they were more expensive.

Cedar City was two plane rides to Las Vegas and then a 2.5-hour drive to the clinic. That felt like a Herculean undertaking with a damaged knee. But they could see me in a week. Pacific, on the other hand, told me it would be a month out and they wanted all manner of tests prior…more money out of pocket.

I had already been injured a month at that point and was over it. I could not bear the idea of hobbling around my 400 sqft garage apartment prison for another month. I actually burst into tears when she told me that on the phone and immediately booked my surgery for the following week in Cedar City.

It turns out getting through airports while injured is a breeze thanks to wheelchair assistance. I had to pay a little extra for legroom on the flights, but it was worth it. Cedar City has a very nice little apartment for their traveling guests, and a metal dangling thing you can hoist yourself out of bed with. I loved that thing.

The clinic was top notch, clean, professional, and run by friendly staff. In fact, my point person Amanda was the main reason I chose Cedar City as she was friendly and accommodating. The surgery went without a hitch, and I was in physical therapy later that afternoon and then twice the next day before flying out the next morning.

Dr. Delcore explained that he could offer the surgery so reasonably ($2, 900) because over the years he created a practice that he owned and ran himself. As such, he knows the costs of everything that goes into his surgeries and can be direct and transparent with pricing.

In the end, I spent about half my deductible on the surgery and related travel. I wish we had a health care system that allowed me to stay home affordably for surgery, but we don’t, and I’m grateful to the doctors out there who are creating alternatives for patients like me.

 

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