Medical treatment as good as that delivered in the U.S. and Canada…but at a fraction of the price. That’s a prime benefit in the countries that top the healthcare category of the 2017 Annual Global Retirement Index, produced by InternationalLiving.com. Among the top ranked are Mexico, Columbia and Costa Rica.
The countries that top the healthcare category in the 2017 Global Retirement Index all feature the availability of clean, excellent hospitals, highly trained doctors, and very affordable care, proving that Latin & Central America offer much more than sunny beaches, warm weather and affordable real estate options when it comes to retirement.
More than 40,000 Americans travel each year to Costa Rica to seek medical and dental treatment. These “medical tourists” have discovered that this little Central American country has high-quality healthcare available at a very low cost.
One American who recently traveled to Costa Rica as a medical tourist reported a saving of $15,000 for dental implants, even after paying for airfare and accommodation.
And expats who live in Costa Rica are able to take advantage of this benefit every day of the year, paying a fraction of what they did back home for doctor’s visits, surgeries, prescriptions, and any other care they need.
There are two medical systems in Costa Rica, both of which expats have access to.
First is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as Caja for short. This is universal healthcare, provided and managed by the government. It’s available to citizens and legal residents, including foreigners with the retiree visa, for example.
There is also an extensive private medical system in Costa Rica, with doctors, clinics, and hospitals throughout the country. Expats often can also use insurance, either international policies or those provided by Costa Rican companies. Most private hospitals have international patient departments to help arrange financial matters.
Often expats mix and match private and public medical care. They might see a private doctor and pay cash and then have their prescription filled in the Caja pharmacy for free. Or if a procedure is taking too long to schedule at a public clinic, they might go private.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as number 22 out of the 191 countries they review. That is better than Canada, which ranks 30th, and better than the U.S. too, which ranks 37th.
There are many excellent hospitals and clinics located throughout Colombia that provide both general and specialized medical services. Half of the top 43 hospitals in Latin America are in Colombia (22 out of 43). The larger cities of Bogotá, Medellín, and Bucaramanga have hospitals that have received the Joint Commission International accreditation.
Any expat not over the age of 60 with a resident cédula (national ID card) can apply for the government health insurance EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud). Even if you have pre-existing conditions, you can be accepted into the plan. These conditions may be excluded for a short period of time—six months or so—but then will be covered in full. To participate in the program, retirees pay a premium equal to 12% of their income. Many expats report monthly premiums in the $70 to $85 range for a couple.
Private health insurance is an option for people over the age of 60 or as a supplemental plan to EPS public coverage. Coomeva, for example, offers a private health insurance plan for people up to the age of 85. Premiums will be significantly lower than what a couple would pay in the U.S. Of course they vary depending on the carrier choose, the level of coverage, and age and health at time of application.
And here again, the cost for medical procedures is much lower than what is typical in the States. In most cases, Americans are able to save 40% on healthcare in Colombia, and in many cases, even more.
Thousands of Americans visit Mexico each year for medical treatment and dental care. The facilities, even in medium-sized cities, are top notch. And physicians have usually received at least some training in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. If not medical school, they receive ongoing training abroad. All the latest technology, techniques, and prescription medications are available in Mexico. And having major surgery or treatment for serious medical conditions is not a problem.
Expats also enjoy access to this top medical care, of course, and overall they can expect to pay about half—or less—of U.S. prices, including prices for prescription drugs.
Legal residents have access to two systems. The government-run system operates clinics and hospitals throughout the country and most expats say it offers good basic care at a low price—with costs running to just a few hundred dollars per year.
Many expats also use private healthcare, for which they pay cash or use insurance. It is much cheaper than the U.S. For example, a visit to the doctor is about $30 to $40. For lab testing, expect to pay about a third of the U.S. cost.