Medical tourism boost for expats in South America

health tourism

Central American countries are attracting more medical tourists, boosting health facilities for expats.

The cost of healthcare in the United States has long be the scourge of the underinsured, and while “Obamacare” may improve the situation, going abroad is an increasingly attractive option.

Since the recession hit more people are looking abroad for healthcare options. There are many popular destinations for medical tourism that provide very affordable care at a quality to equal the USA.

Central and South America are the top destinations for American medical tourists. Many American healthcare providers have recognised this and are expanding their operations to include branches in other countries. This has the added benefit of giving the expats living in these countries access to high-quality facilities at affordable prices.

So where offers the best standard of care at the best prices?


Ecuador is very popular among expat retirees and is steadily building a reputation as a medical tourism destination. Cuenca in particular is catching the attention of medical tourism representatives.

According to expats can expect to pay 7-10% of what they would pay in the US for medical treatments. A heart bypass that would cost $130,000 in the U.S., will cost closer to $10,000 in Cuenca and a hip replacement priced at anywhere from $43,000 to $51,000, only $8,000.

It’s not only expats and medical tourists from the US who are taking advantage of the medical system, Ecuadorians living in America often travel home to make use of the affordable healthcare.

Costa Rica

Often mentioned as the top destination for US expats, the standard of healthcare in Costa Rica is one of the many perks. Expats and medical tourists can choose from one of the private, accredited hospitals again at a cost much lower than they would pay at home.

Waiting times for surgery and treatment are practically non-existent and many doctors are trained in the U.S. meaning most speak good English.

Other countries popular with both expats and medical tourists are Mexico and Panama where outposts of U.S. health care providers offer high quality, affordable treatment options.