Bill could put millions of dollars towards medical tourism advertisement

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - For the Todoravic's, coming to the United States from Bosnia, was the only option for Tiana's surgery.

"We didn't want to try out and in a different institute that weren't specialized in children surgeries or didn't do lengthens all the time," said Boris Todoravic.

Tiana has tibial hemimelia and over the next ten years, she'll have three surgeries that will lengthen the bone in her leg.

The Todoravic's said coming to the United States, was the only option.

Dad said, "We're confident that we're getting the state of the art treatment that we might not get somewhere else."

Treatment comes with a hefty cost.

"It's in the range over $100,000," he said.

That's thousands of dollars coming into the state for healthcare services, something Florida lawmakers want more of.

State leaders recently proposed a bill that would put millions of dollars towards medical tourism advertisement.

"Medical tourism isn't a new trend, " said Renee-Marie Stephano, president of the Medical Tourism Association.

She said for decades, millions have traveled to other countries for medical procedures.

Visit Florida, the official tourism marketing group for the state, has created a 2.5 million dollar grant program to encourage medical tourism here.

With alluring beaches and tropical weather, Staphano said Florida could become a top destination for medical tourism, while also cashing in on a million-dollar industry.

But some Americans, like Melissa Freihofer, feel their dollar will go a long ways overseas.

She takes her time packing because she knows this trip will change her life.

"I've really become somewhat of a recluse over the last few years because I don't want to smile anymore," she said. "It's hard to come out and say I don't want to go because I don't want anyone to see my teeth, but that's the truth of it. I'm ashamed of it," said Freihofer.

She broke her jaw years ago in an accident.

"I broke it on the two sides and down the middle," she said.

After that, her teeth deteriorated and started falling out.

"I'm missing at least 10 to 12 teeth, if not more," said Freihofer.  "I did the best I could with the dentist but it was just becoming too expensive. Even the dental insurance wasn't enough to cover anything."

That all changed on her birthday, when Skylar and Skylar's dad surprised her.

Skylar said,"He asked me what you want to get your mom for her birthday and it just came to me, why can't we get her teeth done."

The card explained how friends and family donated money, and now Melissa's packing to go miles away to Costa Rica.

A country popular with tourists, known for it's beauty, but also for its dentist.

Melissa will get her teeth fixed at Meza Dental, located in Costa Rica.

As her doctor gets ready, Melissa becomes anxious.

"Why am I nervous? That little bit of pain is going to be so worth the changes that are going to happen to me.," she said."

She's undergoing full mouth restoration.

Each tooth being pulled and replaced with an implant.

Done in two visits, with travel and all, totaling $22,000 dollars.

The same process here in the states would have cost more than twice as much.

"It is based on local cost. Cost of living is lower," said Dr. Alberto Meza of Meza Dental. 

A lower cost doesn't mean she's sacrificing on the team's qualifications.

Meza said, "We have achieved certain accreditations from the United States, in order to prove to our clientele that things are done the right way."

Dr. David Soria, WPTV Medical Expert, traveled with us to Costa Rica to see the process.

"A lot of times we even as physicians like to think there's really no way anywhere else other than in the U.S., can be as good as the procedures and the quality that we provide. And the reality is that in today's medical market, internationally, I think the training, credentials and the expertise of surgeons abroad are absolutely as good as surgeons here in the states," said Dr. Soria.

After some recovery, Melissa returned home to Skylar.

"When I smiled at her the first time that initial reaction when she saw me smile, she cried because she was so happy for me and she saw that it was a pretty smile," she said.

For now, she's wearing temporary dentures. They're thrilled at the difference and the new life it has meant for them.

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