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Health insurance coverage

Healthcare costs in the U.S. continue to rise. According to PwC’s Health Research Institute, medical costs look set to grow by 6.5% this year alone. Out-of-pocket medical expenses are one of the main reasons U.S. citizens go into debt, according to the Association of Healthcare Journalists. And with the average health insurance premium for a family topping $18,000 as of last year (up 58% since 2006), it’s small wonder that more than 11% of U.S. adults are still uninsured.



Fortunately, there are countries overseas where you can find a great retirement lifestyle…and excellent, affordable healthcare when you need it. The five countries below rank among the top retirement destinations in the world. You can more than halve your healthcare costs in all these places—without compromising on quality.

In these countries, you can get yourself fully insured from just $80 a month, see a specialist for as little as $30, and have surgery performed by a well-trained professional for half or less (often much less) of the U.S. price. All of which leaves you with a lot more money to enjoy everything these retirement havens offer.

When Rob Evans’s retirement severance package ran out, decent healthcare for him and his wife Jeni was going to cost $18,000 a year in the U.S. “We simply couldn’t afford it. If we chose to stay there, I would have to get another job just to pay for healthcare,” says Rob.

That was until they discovered the wonderful (and highly affordable) healthcare on offer in Costa Rica. Here, with low-cost coverage “and much lower out-of-pocket costs for medicines and treatment of minor ailments directly from a pharmacy, we can satisfy all our healthcare needs for about $4,000 per year,” says Rob.

As a legal resident of Costa Rica, you are part of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social government-run healthcare system. For a low monthly fee based on income (typically under $100 per couple), you receive complete care.

But many expats also use private doctors and hospitals. Costs are low, with doctors’ visits running $50, so some expats choose to pay cash. However, although surgeries and hospital stays are half to a third of U.S. prices, a lengthy hospital stay or major procedure can still be costly.


is available, with local providers like Instituto Nacional de Seguros, as well as companies like BlueCross BlueShield Costa Rica. Depending on your policy, you may even be covered for travel to the U.S. or internationally. But there are exclusions based on age (the cut-off is usually 70 to 75) and for pre-existing conditions.

You can also use international insurance and travel insurance. Some facilities, including CIMA Hospital, Clínica Bíblica, and Hospital Metropolitana, in the capital, San José, take TRICARE through its overseas program.

Many expats use both public and private healthcare. That same specialist visit could be scheduled within days in the private system, costing $80 to $100 (it’s $50 for a general practitioner). The ultrasound could be done the same day for $75. It’s a hallmark of the fast and efficient service in the private system.

“We use a private doctor for primary care,” says expat Barbara Jones. “He speaks English and writes prescriptions through the Caja. We’ve both had EKGs and I had a mammogram at the Caja hospital in Grecia.”



“When I moved to Mexico, one piece of emotional baggage I left behind in the U.S. was worry over the cost of healthcare,” says International Living Mexico Editor Glynna Prentice. Though private healthcare in Mexico is a fraction of the U.S. cost, expats depending on it generally get private insurance to cover emergencies and costly procedures. GNP Seguros is Mexico’s largest private health insurer. Several other companies operate in Mexico, as well, including Bupa Mexico, a subsidiary of the U.K. giant Bupa Global. Premiums vary, depending on your age, the coverage you choose, and your deductible. But expect to pay on average anywhere from about $1,000 to $3,000 a year for a policy. You can even get international coverage for emergencies as part of your policy, or as a rider to it. If you expect to travel frequently outside Mexico, or to visit family back in the U.S. or Canada, it’s worth asking about this. You’ll need to show that you’re a resident of Mexico to get an insurance policy there. Insurers will want to see proof that you live there, such as a utility bill in your name. They may even ask to see a residence visa. “In Mexico, I have access to two affordable healthcare systems: public and private,” Glynna says. “While folks in the U.S. can legitimately worry that an unexpected, costly illness can deplete their nest egg, I don’t. Like other expats in Mexico, I can budget for healthcare: It’s a manageable expense.” And the quality of care is excellent, with wonderful individual doctors and specialists, many top-notch hospitals, and cutting-edge technology. Many doctors in the private system have done part of their studies abroad, in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Doctors’ visits usually run from about $30 a visit up to $45 or $50 for many specialists.

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