Couple finds great price and care from international medicine

TOLEDO (WTVG) - When you look for medical care, you probably look around your community, maybe look around the state but have you ever looked outside the country?

One Ohio couple is traveling the world and they know first-hand what medical care is like around the world even for a serious condition.

Ellen and Ted Kortan did something many only dream about. They quit their jobs and retired at 43 and 52-years-old. They’re traveling the world but as they traveled, life tagged along.

After a mammogram in Croatia, Ellen received a cancer diagnosis. It wasn't time to head back to the states. She hit it head on overseas with a mastectomy in Croatia.

“If people outside of the United States thrive and live and get sick and get healthy with the doctors they have available then why can't I use those same doctors," Ellen Kortan said.

13abc spoke recently with the couple from Indonesia. They've been traveling since 2015 and getting medical care all along the way.

Here's just some of what Ellen has experienced:

Mammogram in Mexico and Croatia
Dental cleaning in Malaysia.
Psychiatrist visit in Thailand
Pharmacist in Greece

“If I'm open minded to finding other ways to go about getting care I don't necessarily feel like I need to run right home," Ellen Kortan said.

They're not alone. The group Patients Beyond Borders estimates up to 24 million people travel for medical procedures. The estimates show the money spent is just over $3400 a year, which includes transportation.

As for Americans, the estimate is that just short of 2 million people will travel outside the country for medical care this year.

So what are the tricks to making it work? Number one is language. Ellen said the language barrier can make things difficult, but she's found plenty of English speakers. In Malaysia, she found a doctor fluent in English and educated in New York City.

"As a medical care consumer I feel like I can communicate on a level that frankly could be life and death," Ellen said.

When she's comfortable with someone, she then asks for a recommendation. All trying to make a human connection with people she's only just met.

"I asked the radiologist if I was your sister where would you send me? Where would I go in your country for further treatment," Ellen Korten said.

She's also using Facebook, finding a group of people that live in that area and ask for their favorite choices.They'll get a name and research it further.

Cost can also be a major factor and has been for these world travelers. The Kortan's estimate that for the early tests, breast cancer surgery and follow up tests the breast cancer battle cost them $10,000. According to AARP, the cost for cancer treatment here in the US is around $150,000.

"It's an individual decision. Where is your comfort level? Where is your ability to keep an open mind and experience something and how badly do you want to say a lot of money," Ellen Korten said.