Exact healthcare costs for Americans in Chennai, India

It all started with a slipped disc in my back.  OUCH!!!

Of course, I didn’t know for sure what was causing the intense burning and numbness in my left arm until the doctor’s diagnosis. But similar symptoms (more mild) are something I’ve occasionally experienced for at least the last 15 years — and had medical treatment for in the USA.

I kinda suspected what was going on.

Still, this time, we were in southern India. Traveling. Sometime between our stays in Mamallapuram and Chennai the nerve pain got really bad. I could hardly sleep at night. I couldn’t lay at all on either side without major discomfort. And it was getting worse.

Thus, once settled in in Chennai, India — the country’s fourth-largest metropolis, which is known for it’s medical ‘industry’ — I sought out medical help.

That first appointment with orthopedic specialist Dr. Dorai Kumar turned out to be just the first of many visits we made to Indian doctors and medical facilities during our six-week stay in Chennai.

In fact, you might say our Chennai stay turned into a personal medical ‘festival’ for myself and the wife. And why not? Once we realized the price, convenience, and quality of care – we decided to address any and all routine medical matters and anything else bothering us.

Now after leaving Chennai (and the friends we made at Apollo Spectra hospital at MRC Nagar – just one mile from our Airbnb rental), we’re darn glad we did catch up on everything medical.

Certainly the best news is that everything checked out OK — no health surprises or major issues. And yes, the slipped disc problem in my back/neck has subsided – just as the doctors said it would.

But beyond that, we remain amazed and greatly pleased at the overall experience and cost. Something that is probably rarely said about a barrage of medical visits in the USA.

Exact costs for healthcare in Chennai

Check out the info below. Here’s everything medical related we had done during our Chennai stay — and the total expenses involved.

Slipped/bulging disc – Theo

  • $54  –  total: 5 separate office visits
  • $35  –  1 Cervical spine MRI & reading
  • $39  –  4 Physio therapy treatments
  • $19  –  various prescription medicines

ENT / sinusitis diagnosis – Theo

  • $37  –  2 office visits total
  • $13  –  1 paranasal sinus CT scan
  • $16  –  prescription medications

Urology checkup – Theo

  • $19  –  2 office consultations
  • $36  –  uroflowmetry test
  • $10  –  abdominal ultrasounds

Colonoscopys  – Both

  • $36   –   2 gastroenterology office visits
  • $28   –   Theo: EKG & heart ultrasound 
  • $163  –  Theo: procedure w/anesthesia 
  • $163  –  Ellen: procedure w/anesthesia
  • $12   –   total pre & procedure supplies

Orthopedic/ knee consult – Ellen

  • $13  –  1 ortho office visit
  • $12  –  knee X-rays & reading

Ob-gyn checkup – Ellen

  • $13  –  office visit / exam
  • $21  –  PAP test

Dental exam / repair – Ellen

  • $26  –  standard cleaning & x-rays
  • $25  –  total: 3 separate 2nd opinions
  • $62  –  bonding repair

Bone density test – Ellen

  • $37  –  DEXA scan & reading/assessment 

Complete blood work & reports – Both

  • $25  –  Ellen: ‘diamond-level combo’ sale
  • $28  –  Theo: included free & total PSA

Eyeglasses, including exams – Both

  • $21   –  1 prescription reading glasses
  • $101  –  1 pair prescription progressive chromatic lenses (basic)
  • $104  –  1 pair prescription progressive polarized sunglasses (basic)

Additional prescriptions:

  • $6  –  Theo: backup travel medications for slipped disc/nerve pain 
  • $9  –  both: anti-parasite medicine

If you add up every expense above, the grand total is $1,183. That is today’s conversion from 98,800 rupees. One great convenience: we were able to use our U.S. banked Visa credit card to pay for all the hospital and doctor charges. (Of course, we have a no-foreign-transaction-fees card.) Sometimes foreign card payments are iffy in India.

We did shop around for dental and priced various third-party local scan/lab facilities. Those offering the best prices did NOT accept foreign cards — so we did use some ATM cash too.

In all, we think it was an exceedingly reasonable price to pay for all that is detailed. Indeed, $1,183 is far less than even the deductibles and co-pays we likely would have been responsible for if we were using health insurance back in America.

Another bonus: there was no PPO, HMO, ‘in-network’ nonsense to worry about. And no wrangling with insurance bureaucrats for pre-approvals, coding, or payments. What a joy! It felt like USA healthcare back in the 1990s. 

What’s more, the service was fantastic. Every single appointment and procedure could be scheduled within just a few days (sometimes same day). Only once do I recall having to wait more than 15-20 minutes. And everyone involved was pleasant, helpful, professional, and spoke excellent English.

As for the facilities and equipment, I will honestly say the physical assets were a step down from some of the gleaming palatial healthcare campuses that exist in places like the U.S., UAE, and Malaysia. Our hospital itself reminded me of a 1990s medical building. And undoubtedly, the scanning machines at the cheapo scan/lab were some years old. In fact, my MRI felt like I was in a coffin! 

You can see the facilities for yourself in the photos here. Functional, practical, economical; for the healthcare we required – plus the electives we added – we have no real complaints at all. In fact, we’ve already talked about another Chennai ‘health fest’ in a few years when we are due for another round of routine care — or anytime, if we should require something serious (hopefully not my back).

Lastly, yes, the above info is often considered personal/confidential — but it’s also real and normal and necessary for everyone. Just as we were comfortable accessing these services, we are open to sharing the details.

Bottom line: as we’ve discovered repeatedly during our travels, healthcare outside the USA can be completely satisfactory, far ‘easier’, and a great value, too. See our free global health care guide linked below.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Afraid of health care overseas? Don’t be!

Our special guide on global health care shows you:

  • 7 easy steps to find the right doctors and hospitals
  • Specific price examples for various medical services
  • What to know about medical visas
  • And more!

We go without travel health insurance, but many of the principles apply to those with coverage.

Thanks for reading, “Exact healthcare costs for Americans in Chennai, India.”

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