Years ago, I received a phone call from a client in distress.

She explained that she needed extensive dental work that would cost more than $20,000.

She used an expensive yet popular dentist in San Francisco. These costs were going to be a significant strain on the finances and would make the retirement picture cloudy.

A few days later she called me back and happily stated that she only needed half the money initially asked for.

I asked if she was able to talk the dentist down in price.


She explained how she found a dentist in Nevada who would do the same work for half the price, including airfare and hotel.

We continue to see people leave the state and country seeking cheaper medical and dental care. We have seen Californians find more affordable nursing homes out of state as well.

I love many things about California, but the cost of living is not one of them. Some medical tourism has people crossing state lines to seek cheaper medical and dental care. Others cross international lines.

Leaving the country for medical help is not without risks.

Many countries do not have the same standards as the U.S. There are also countries which allow for experimental procedures that are not yet legal and may never be.

Of course, some people see the less stringent standards as a tradeoff for a lower price. It never the less requires one to take extra precaution.

Several agencies inspect and rate foreign hospitals. Becoming familiar with them all would be wise.

Joint Commission International (JCI) is one agency that rates the quality of international hospitals.

To receive accreditation from JCI, a hospital must have the same standards as an American hospital. There are hundreds of JCI accredited hospitals around the world.

A company called Patients Without Borders specializes in helping people seek safe medical care outside of their country.

They state that Costa Rica, Israel, India and South Korea are a few countries people travel to most. Patients Without Borders also estimates the worldwide expenditures on medical tourism surpasses $45 billion annually.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also has an informative page listing some of the risks associated with medical tourism.

They state that flying after surgery can increase the danger of a blood clot among other hazards.

Not long ago, the cost of health insurance wasn’t a major factor in retirement planning. Times have changed.

I have worked with many people who were ready to retire in their early 60s, but the outrageous costs of insurance the last few years before Medicare didn’t allow it.

I am not a doctor and I would never tell a person to go to another country for medical procedures.

But I do notice that the decision to do so is becoming routine. That is an indictment of our current system.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.