LASIK eye surgery involves the use of specialized lasers to improve vision. It can be fairly expensive, and it is often not covered by insurance, prompting some people to get the surgery in other countries where it is cheaper.(Learn More)
This is called medical tourism, and it has benefits and drawbacks. If you find a facility and surgeon of equal quality to the ones in your home country, you can potentially save substantial money with few downsides. (Learn More) A surgery that can cost $1,500 or more per eye in the United States may cost a third of that, or even less, elsewhere. (Learn More)
There are risks to consider. Some countries have poorly regulated facilities. You are then at greater risk of going to a bad facility or an underqualified surgeon. Some countries struggle with low-quality supplies even if they have high-quality doctors and equipment. (Learn More)
You should only travel overseas to save on costs if you can verify the safety of the facility. While the procedure is not totally without risk even in the United States, you should expect the surgeon and facility to reduce the risks of complications as much as possible. If that cannot be ensured, find a different facility.(Learn More)
LASIK Eye Surgery Overseas
LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) eye surgery is a surgery in which a special laser is used to reshape the cornea to improve vision. It can be used to fix myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism.
The procedure is relatively safe when performed correctly. But if something goes wrong, it could potentially lead to serious eye issues.
The procedure is not totally without risks (discussed below), and it can often be costly.
Generally speaking, LASIK eye surgery is viewed as an elective surgery. This means many insurance plans will not cover it. Since the out-of-pocket costs can be high, it has led to a surge in medical tourism for this surgery.
What Is Medical Tourism?
Medical tourism is when a person travels abroad to seek medical care. For example, if you live in the United States, you might travel to Mexico to get a procedure that is significantly cheaper there.
If the quality of care you receive abroad is genuinely equal to what you’d receive at home, it may make good sense to get a procedure performed where it is cheapest. It’s important to understand the quality of care you are going to receive abroad and to factor in additional costs, such as travel expenses, before scheduling the procedure.
Despite some claims to the contrary, LASIK eye surgery tends to be fairly expensive in the United States. The average cost per eye sits around $1,500 to $3,000.
To give a comparison, the following are some estimates of the average cost per eye abroad:
- United Kingdom: $1,204
- Czech Republic:- $397
- Hungary: $476
- Turkey: $858
- India: $946
- Thailand: $1,514
Understanding the Risks
The biggest concern when considering LASIK eye surgery overseas is the notion that not all doctors and facilities are equal. It may be difficult to determine the quality of the facilities in some countries. If a country has looser medical regulations than your home country, a facility may be able to misrepresent its quality of care more easily.
Good doctors and facilities exist in countries with generally poor health care regulations, but that is not a gamble you should take with major surgeries. If your LASIK eye surgery goes wrong, you could experience significant eye damage, including blindness, or experience other serious complications.
Some potential risks of getting surgery overseas include:
- Problems communicating with doctors and staff members who do not natively speak your language, increasing the risk of unforeseen problems.
- Issues with counterfeit medications or medications of low quality. This is an issue even legitimate, well-staffed facilities in some countries must deal with regularly.
- Exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria or issues more prevalent in other countries than in the United States.
This does not mean going to a country where LASIK eye surgery is cheaper is always an incredibly risky venture. It just means you must be careful and do your research beforehand.
Talk to a professional about your idea, and research this type of medical tourism to find the best facilities overseas.
Don’t just choose whatever option is cheapest. Cost does not always equal quality, and you are obviously aiming to save money by traveling for the procedure, but unreasonably low costs might signal that they are cutting corners in some way.
Should You Get LASIK Eye Surgery Overseas?
Health care costs in the United States are often much higher than in other countries. Since most people will have trouble getting LASIK covered by insurance, medical tourism makes a lot of sense.
If you intend to get LASIK eye surgery abroad, properly research everything you can about where you are going and the facility you are choosing. While the facility’s own website and employees may be of some help, understand their bias. Aim to gather information from third-party sources as well.
Do not trust facilities with little available information regardless of their costs. Overall, it’s best to avoid countries with poor health care regulations.
Getting Laser Eye Surgery Abroad. Lasik Eyes.
LASIK Eye Surgery. (December 30, 2017). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
Medical Tourism. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LASIK Cost – How Much Is LASIK? QualSight.
National Health Expenditure Data. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.