Americans Saying No to Rising Healthcare Costs and Moving Overseas —InternationalLiving.com

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As the Affordable Care Act pushes costs for insurance coverage up for some, more Americans are looking abroad to avoid rising healthcare and insurance costs. A new report from InternationalLiving.com profiles retirees who have lowered their healthcare costs abroad in locales where healthcare is both of high quality and low cost.

Sete, France

Costs for appendectomies, hip replacements, and heart bypass surgery average half or less of U.S. prices.

In a recent report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that in 2017 insurers will raise the premiums for plans sold through HealthCare.gov by an average of 22 percent — about triple the 7.5 percent increase from 2015 to 2016.

With the specter of increasingly more expensive healthcare looming, more Americans than ever are choosing to take action to lower their healthcare costs without sacrificing quality care—by moving abroad.

In the U.S., the costs for medical care and services are negotiated by insurance companies and can vary greatly from region to region, from market to market. The Affordable Care Act didn’t change that. And in markets that have experienced a lot of hospital mergers, monopolistic pricing can raise costs even higher.

Healthcare expenses in most of the rest of the world are established by the central government, but are typically set relative to the local cost of living. It just costs less to live in certain parts of Southeast Asia, Latin America, or Europe than it does to live in the U.S. In addition, laws and court systems don’t allow for frivolous lawsuits. Suing someone can take years and judges have no incentive to dole out multimillion-dollar awards. So malpractice insurance is very low outside the U.S., as are doctors’ and health workers’ fees and hospital and clinic charges—savings that are passed along to customers.

For these reasons, healthcare plans can cost a small fraction outside the U.S. than they would within U.S. borders. In Panama, Costa Rica, or Mexico, for example, a couple might spend $250 a month—depending on age and other factors—for comprehensive, low-deductible private health insurance. In Ecuador, a couple can join the IESS social security plan for about $80 a month… and that would include prescription coverage.

Despite the lower costs, quality of care is high, especially in the metropolitan areas recommended by the editors of InternationalLiving.com.

In Malaysia, for example, private hospital-room charges start at $28, and $90 a day pays for an en-suite room with cable TV. The high-cholesterol medication Zocor (which can cost $3.50 and up per tablet in the U.S.) costs less than $22 a month in Malaysia, while the generic, simvastatin, costs less than $5.50 a month.

A full dental cleaning in Ecuador costs just $30 to $45. Partial plates run about $325, and a complete set of dentures costs about $900, including office visits, fittings, lab work, and impressions. Teeth bleaching costs $25. A porcelain crown is just $250.

France has one of the highest-ranked healthcare systems in the world. A recent survey reported that a single day in a hospital in the U.S. costs, on average, $1,514 (up to as much as $12,537), while in France it costs $853. A routine doctor’s visit in the U.S. costs an average $95 (up to as much as $176). In France, the cost is $30. Costs for appendectomies, hip replacements, and heart bypass surgery average half or less of U.S. prices.

It’s little wonder, then, that Americans are moving abroad for more affordable healthcare.

Curt Noe, a retired traffic engineer from New Jersey, moved to Medellín, Colombia, in 2007. “I arrived with a pre-existing condition of cancer. I expected to have a problem getting health insurance here and was pleasantly surprised that I was completely covered by the national health plan (EPS) after only a six-month waiting period.”

During his first few years in Medellín, Curt flew back to the U.S. for second opinions and follow-up appointments.

“I realized I didn’t need to spend the money to do that, after my U.S. doctors said that the care I am receiving in Medellín is on par with what they would do.”

Healthcare costs are far lower in Colombia as well. In 2015 the cost of a hip replacement in the U.S. averaged just over $40,000. In Colombia, the same procedure averages only a little over $8,000.

Roger Carter is one of a growing number of expats finding high-quality medical care in Southeast Asia. “Not only were the meds I needed easily available,” said Carter, “but the low cost of healthcare literally saved my life.”

Roger and other expats in the region can see English-speaking doctors trained in Western hospitals—often without an appointment. Hospitals accredited by the Joint Commission International (the gold standard of healthcare accreditation) are common. Expats report receiving equal (or better) care in Southeast Asia than they did in the States—at a small fraction of the cost. They report, for example, they can see a specialist for $20 or less, prescriptions often sell for as little as 5 percent of the U.S. costs, and complete hospital stays with top-of-the-range treatment costs a fifth or less of U.S. prices.

International Living editor Jason Holland puts it this way:

“One of the most important reasons we moved to Costa Rica was the low-cost medical care. And not just that it's cheap but that it's good, essentially North American standard.

“My wife was pregnant,” said Holland, “and after being laid off in the U.S., the cost to have the baby there was astronomical. In Costa Rica, the total cost was $3,000—the obstetrician, anesthesiologist, hospital costs...everything. And the care was excellent.

“After that we had plenty more opportunity to use both the public and private healthcare system. Through the Caja government-run system, we paid $180 a month for full coverage for our family of four. And when we visited private doctors it was $50 per visit, cash.”

The latest International Living report on healthcare abroad contains more interviews with U.S. expats and prices and information on the cost and quality of healthcare overseas. Find the latest International Living report at: Why Is Healthcare So Much Cheaper Outside The U.S.?

Editor’s Note: Members of the media have permission to reproduce the article linked above once credit is given to InternationalLiving.com.

For information about InternationalLiving.com content republishing, source material or to book an interview with one of our experts, contact Associate Editor Carol Barron, 772-678-0287 (US), CBarron(at)InternationalLiving.com or visit the Media Center.

For more than 36 years, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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