Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Dental Vacation

It's not my idea of a fun getaway, but for more and more families who don't have dental insurance, combining a vacation outside the US with dental care is a necessary choice:

JENNIFER GATES, 40, a hairstylist and makeup artist from Northern California, hadn’t seen a dentist in a decade when she got the call last spring. Her father, Jerry Halley, 64, phoned to say he desperately needed crowns for a few back teeth and other work. Without insurance, Mr. Halley, who owns a landscaping business in Oregon, would have to pay the estimated $8,000 bill.

“We all needed quality dental care, fast,” said Ms. Gates, whose own dental-work estimate was $20,000 and whose immediate family was also uninsured. “So, I started planning.”

Ms. Gates found a reputable dentist through friends of her parents who had traveled to Mexico for care. Six weeks later, Ms. Gates flew to join her parents for a week of massages and tanning in San José del Cabo, Mexico, punctuated, in her case, by daily visits to Dr. Rosa Peña for five procedures including a root canal.

In the last year, Ms. Gates, who had a tooth so deteriorated she could touch its nerve with her tongue, has returned with her parents, husband and 14-year-old son to scuba dive and to open wide for Dr. Peña. Her 20-year-old daughter and son-in-law also have made a trip. All told Ms. Gates’s extended clan has had 12 crowns, 6 dental veneers, 4 root canals, over half a dozen fillings, 6 whitening treatments and 2 broken teeth fixed at a savings, they say, of tens of thousands of dollars. “Dr. Rosy is now our family dentist,” Ms. Gates said.

Perhaps this is not everyone’s idea of a worry-free family getaway.

Nevertheless, for at least two decades, medical tourism has been an increasingly popular alternative for the uninsured desperate for care, and for middle-class Americans willing to travel to secure affordable health care.

Roughly half a million Americans sought medical care abroad in 2006, of which 40 percent were dental tourists, according to the National Coalition on Health Care, an alliance of more than 70 organizations. That’s up from an estimated 150,000 in 2004, said Renee-Marie Stephano, the chief operating officer for the Medical Tourism Association, a nonprofit organization that researches global health care.

In how many different ways is our healthcare system broke?

1 comment:

ProgressiveChurchlady said...