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Retire Abroad, Nicaragua Edition


There’s a way for older Americans to solve their health care problems and live well on a tight budget: retire abroad. The Lynches are a retiree couple profiled by the WSJ who moved to Granada, Nicaragua, by way of Costa Rica largely to get a better deal on  health care. They were 62 at the time and decided to get medical care abroad in the three years before Medicare was available to them:

We chose Granada because of its beauty and proximity to the highly regarded Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas, about 45 minutes away on the outskirts of Managua. Health care here is as good as, if not better than, anything we had in our native Tennessee—and a fraction of the cost […]

We pay out of pocket for all services and medications. Fees are about 20% to 30% of what they would be in the U.S. For instance, an office visit to our doctor is $15, and we get his undivided attention for as long as it takes. (He even makes house calls for the same price.) Vivian Pellas hospital accepts several international insurance plans (but not Medicare) and offers two discount plans of its own that, depending on one’s age, offer considerable savings.

Like everything, retiring abroad has costs and benefits. The benefits aren’t restricted to cheap health care: the Lynches’ entire monthly budget is $1,800, and they’re able to do a lot on that amount that would be impossible in the US. The downsides are a very hot climate and a culture that is much more relaxed about timeliness than Americans are used to.

The US can do one big thing to make it easier and even more affordable for people in situations like the Lynches to live abroad. When they moved, the Lynches intended to come back to the US when Medicare kicked in. If the US were to allow its citizens to take Medicare payments abroad, people like the Lynches would be more likely to stay abroad. This would save the US from paying the full cost of their care here, and it would allow them to continue to enjoy the lifestyle benefits that come from living abroad.

[Image of Granada Cathedral from Shutterstock]

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  • Anthony

    The issue or option ought not be living abroad or home to maximize health care coverage (cost) but the selling of health care in U.S. A public policy area all but skirted…

    • Andrew Allison

      Anthony, you comment is a bit inscrutable. My take-away from the Quick Take was that US health care is ridiculously costly, and that the taxpayers could save a lot of money if Medicare were available abroad. The problem in the US appears to be not the selling of health care but the inability of many to afford it. Did I miss something?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I want to see taxpayers money spent in the US where it will add to the US economy, not spent outside the US where it just adds to the trade deficit. If Americans want to live outside the US, and not support the US economy with their spending, then the US taxpayer is under no obligation to support their betrayal.

    • Kevin

      If it’s the same price here or abroad then I agree with you. But if it’s much cheaper abroad then it’s better to save the Treasury the money by getting it cheaper abroad than waiting it here.

      • Dexter Scott

        Medicare / medicaid fraud is tough enough to stop in this country… imagine how fun it would be to investigate and prosecute in foreign countries. “Save money” with one hand, lose it with the other…

    • Andrew Allison

      And you don’t care that the taxpayers are spending much more than they would otherwise? Seems hardly Libertarian [grin]

  • Dexter Scott

    The contention that medical care in Nicaragua is “just as good” as the care in Tennessee is highly dubious. It sounded like all they wanted was to make routine visits, no operations or CT/MRI scans or other advanced procedures. My guess is that Mr. Lynch will come scurrying back as soon as he needs anything beyond a routine checkup.

    In short, if you’re basically healthy, you don’t make large demands on the system, and yeah you can live in some squalid Third World country. But let’s not pretend that comparison between Nicaragua and the USA applies across the full spectrum of health care requirements.

    • Andrew Allison

      Life expectancy in “third-world” Nicaragua is 74, versus 69 in the USA!! An imperfect, but significant metric.

      • Dexter Scott

        I question the honesty of the statistics. Is the metric really measuring the same thing in both cases?

        • Andrew Allison

          No. Thanks for making me dig deeper.
          Apples-to-apples, per
          Male life expectancy is 70 in Nicaragua and 76 in the USA (which ranks 39th in the world). It’s noteworthy, however, that Nicaraguan life expectancy is increasing much faster than in the USA (11 years from 1980-2000, versus 4.3 in the USA). All-in-all, I’d say that healthcare is comparable.

          • Dexter Scott

            (Shrug) You should definitely go live there, then. Let me know how that works out for you.

  • Donovan

    How would be the average cost of living for young couples?

    Octave Malta

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