Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lack of Dental Insurance Drives Tourism

by Adam Lindheim

According to the American government close to 100 million Americans currently do not have dental insurance which is about half the U.S. population. Medicare does not cover dental procedures, even though your teeth are just as important as many other organs in your body. Even those who do have dental insurance are not covered very well. The majority of dental policies have a $1,500 dollar annual cap, which can be capped out after a complicated procedure such a root canal or a crown. Many U.S. citizens can not afford these very expensive procedures especially, those families and individuals who have lower fixed incomes. People have been, and more frequently as of late have sought dental coverage over seas.

For years dental tourism has been a thriving field for medical tourism, as many Americans and Europeans try to find affordable dental care. Areas that are popular for dental tourism are Budapest, Prague, Tijuana, and Bangkok. In a 2008 survey conducted by the non profit Healthcare Tourism International Foundation found that dental services were the most common procedures sought out by medical travelers. The price differentiation is staggering. Teeth caps cost $750-$1000 dollars in the U.S. while they cost $150 dollars In Mexico. Last February Fox News radio reporter Lori Lundina blogged about her husbands experience of recieving dental work in El Salvador. He needed "full mouth reconstruction", and was told it would cost him $60,000 dollars in the U.S. He then searched for a second opinion and was found that he could recieve the same procedure for $19,000 dollars in El Salvador. After he recieved the operation Lundin said her and her husband were "more than pleased" with how the operation turned out. Lundin even said that the level of care was superior to the care given in the U.S. The U.S. government with its new healthcare reforms are trying to adress this issue.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus a democrat from Montana recently unveiled his much anticipated plan to change the country's healthcare system. He told reporters that it incorparated mant of the same ideas as President Obama's plan. All avaiable healthcare plans would include dental care, and no limit on the amount of benefits a policy holder can recieve.

Many critics would argue that the dentist overseas would not be as well trained as those avaible in the U.S. According to Dr. Stewart Hirsch New York University Associate Dean of Collefe Dentisry said "there is no reason to assume the quality care is any lower overseas. The only issue with reciving dental care overseas is there is little protection to patients if something is to go wrong. The best advice Dr. Hirsch can give is if you are to find a dentist overseas, then find your dentist like you would in the U.S., find them through referals.

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  3. What if we promote medical tourism in the US, just like in Bangkok and Budapest? That would be possible if the price of dental services went down and modern equipment is used. Local patients won't need to go abroad because they can visit a dentist nearby.

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