With medical travel gaining popularity as an alternative to local medical facilities, Well-Being Travel will host the Well-Being and Medical Travel Conference 2012 later this month in Scottsdale.

More than ever before, patients are traveling outside their home cities for medical procedures. Venturing to another city — or another country — can offer reduced costs or facilities considered as good as, if not better than, those available in a patient’s backyard.

Executive Vice President of Well-Being Travel, Anne Marie Moebes, explains that patients travel not only for reasons of cost but also for quality of care.

For many Americans, medical travel can mean opportunities unmatched by what is available locally. Take, for instance, Kathy Marlowe of Euless, Texas.

When the condition of her knees began to worsen, Marlowe knew a replacement was inevitable. However, being only 64 at the time, her insurance would only have covered 80 percent of the cost of the procedure.

“It would have cost $65,000 per knee just for the hospital stay,” Marlowe says, adding that the figure did not include additional expenses such as anesthesia.

With the additional 20 percent not covered by Medicare until she reached age 65, this would have left Marlowe to foot a bill in excess of $30,000 for both procedures.

Worried she might end up in a wheelchair if she were to put off the procedure, Marlowe went in search of alternatives. This led her to a company called Well-Being Travel and its partner Companion Global Healthcare, Inc., who together will host the Well-Being and Medical Travel Conference 2012 later this month in Scottsdale.

The two companies work together to make medical and travel arrangements for “patient travelers” who want to undergo procedures away from home. In Marlowe’s case, this meant arranging two trips, one in March of 2011, the other in September later that year, to the CIMA Hospital in San Jose, Costa Rica, to have both her knees replaced.

“Companion Global Healthcare took care of everything,” Marlowe adds.

Marlowe simply had to provide Companion Global Healthcare with medical records, and they took it from there, sending the records to San Jose, selecting a doctor to perform the procedures, and, with the help Well-Being Travel, making travel arrangements to and from Costa Rica.

The best part? When all was said and done, both knee replacements resulted in no out-of-pocket cost to Marlowe. Between her medical insurance, and her husband’s coverage as an employee of the city of Euless, Marlowe made both trips to Costa Rica without spending a dime on travel or either procedure.

“And, [the insurance company and the city] still saved money,” Marlowe says, explaining that the procedure cost far less in Costa Rica than it would have in Texas.

This is not to say that medical travelers are receiving inferior medical care. Marlowe explains that Companion Global and the insurance companies will not send patients to foreign facilities that have not met American accreditation standards.

Moebes says that while most patients travel for elective or therapeutic procedures, patients often have no other options due to lack of insurance or have explored all other options, such as women seeking alternative conception methods.

Patients have been traveling to foreign and domestic facilities for quite some time, Moebes adds. The trend is now coming to the forefront, and it is time for the travel industry to get more involved, she adds.

On June 20-21, the Well-Being and Medical Travel Conference 2012 at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale will bring together professionals from the travel and health and wellness industries to explore the growing trend of medical travel.

“The consumer needs to be aware of the options,” Moebes says. “The whole package needs to be seamless for the consumer.”

The two-day conference will provide in-depth education for travel sellers on all aspects of medical travel. Attendees will gain the tools, knowledge and contacts they need to profit in this emerging market.

There will also be an opportunity to be entered into a sweepstakes to win a wellness travel experience valued at $5,500. The package, sponsored by the acclaimed Anadolu Medical Center in Turkey, includes two days of premium examinations and tests, spa treatment, a tour of Istanbul, round-trip airfare and a five-night stay at the Titanic Hotel.

For more information on medical travel and the Well-Being and Medical Travel Conference 2012:

Well-Being and Medical Travel Conference 2012
The Phoenician Resort
6000 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale
June 20-21