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Want Cheaper Health Care? Retire Abroad

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.

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  • Jim Luebke

    Don’t fully reimburse. If you reimburse, lots of money goes abroad, and doctors abroad hike their prices to account for the new subsidy.

    What you need to do is set a fixed payment that is a fraction of what you’d get stateside. It may be enough to cover the service, it may not.

    Medical tourism is probably the best solution overall. Anyone who can afford the price of a ticket can afford the price of the operation listed here.

    This approach would definitely have been discovered, and would probably be very widespread by now, if people had to pay for medical out of their own pockets instead of having the government pay for it all. But no, markets are evil!

  • Lorenz Gude

    At 70 and an Australian citizen with Australian Government and private insurance I am well looked after. I have had a lot of attempts to cure my AF with cardioversions and an ablation. I have not had to pay anything even though I am using the private system. i pay $1300 a year for US Medicare for when I visit the US, and if later in life I decide to move back. Haven’t had to use it yet, thank goodness.

  • Amanda Steeley

    There are many options for retiring abroad, if you’re interested!

    following article gives several options for overseas retirement, as well as what to do if you want to retire overseas but your spouse does

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