If the golden beaches and high quality of life aren’t enough, the cost of health care should be enough to tempt boomers to retire abroad. Kathleen Peddicord’s piece on medical tourism and health care for expat retirees offers one anecdote in particular that illustrates the comparative cheapness of foreign services:
My friend, Lee Harrison, has been retired outside the U.S. for about 12 years. In all those years living overseas, Harrison has had a number of occasions to seek medical care. In one case, he had to have the exact same procedure performed in Cuenca, Ecuador, that he also had performed, at about the same time, in the United States…. He had a small, non-threatening skin cancer removed. The total cost was $90, which included the operation, office visit, local anesthesia, and supplies. In addition, he paid $20 for associated lab work, and the total bill was $110.By coincidence, he also had the same thing done in Arizona. The total cost there was $5,190. Even after insurance, his portion of the bill was still $347. To put this into perspective, it cost 300 percent more to be insured in the United States than it cost to be uninsured in Ecuador.
As Peddicord notes, Medicare in general refuses reimbursement to oversees retirees (with some minor exceptions), as do most insurance companies. This needs to change. Having Medicare reimburse expats on these already low rates would incentivize overseas retirement even more, saving them, and the US, money.Overseas retirement can lower health care costs while improving overall quality of life for a large group of Americans. Let’s hope more Baby Boomers take the leap.