The 5 countries with the best healthcare in the world for retirees

By FeaturesFOXBusiness

Healthcare bills for retirees in the US is one of the biggest expenses incurred in your “golden years”. 

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A fidelity study released last year estimates that a healthy, 65-year-old couple will need $275,000 to cover their healthcare costs in retirement—and that doesn’t include the cost of over-the-counter medications, dental care, or long-term care.

But according to a recent survey, there are places overseas where retirees can enjoy excellent-quality healthcare—as good if not better than what they expect in the US for pennies on the dollar.

International Living.com recently compared and contrasted the benefits of life in the top 24 countries around the world they recommend for an overseas retirement.

“In addition to a survey of specific prices for a range of treatments, medications, and insurance, we also take into account the ease with which expats can access care. In the communities we recommend in all the nations that top our list, expats can find excellent healthcare at prices as low as 50% or less of what they’d expect to pay at home in the United States,” says International Living’s Executive Editor, Jennifer Stevens.

Stevens discussed with Fox Business the top 5 countries International Living recommends for retirees when it comes to healthcare overseas – and why:

COSTA RICA

In Costa Rica, modern, state-of-the-art healthcare is available almost everywhere. The United Nations has ranked Costa Rica’s public health system within the top 20 worldwide and the number one in Latin America. The country provides universal healthcare to its citizens and all legal residents—that means you, if you’re an expat. International Living’s correspondent in the Central Valley, John Michael Arthur, reports that he and his partner pay $82 a month as a couple to access the country’s universal system—after that, all their care is covered and free.

In addition, there’s a private system in which prices are about one-third of what they’d be in the U.S. As a result, many expats use the public system as a failsafe—and then pay out of pocket to physicians in the private system for regular visits, second-opinion consultations, dental work, and so on.

MALAYSIA

In Malaysia, the doctors typically speak English and most were trained in the UK, U.S., or Australia so they are familiar with Western standards of care. Many of the hospitals in Kuala Lumpur and Penang are Joint Commission International accredited, meaning that they are considered to meet the global gold standard in healthcare. Costs are much lower than what we’re used to in the U.S. If you’re paying out-of-pocket, a first-time doctor or specialist visit usually costs between $15 and $65 and follow-up visits are typically $11 to $28. An overnight hospital stay will cost somewhere between $55 and $200 per night for a private room.

COLOMBIA

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as 22 out of the 191 countries they review. (That is better than Canada at 30 and the U.S. at 37.) The care is top notch and the price is a small fraction of what it would add up to in the U.S.  Co-pays for the public health plan are based on a three-tiered system—the mid-range price is about $3—and apply to laboratory tests, x-rays, and prescription medications. Private health insurance is an option for people under the age of 60 as a supplemental plan to the EPS public coverage. But many expats simply choose to pay for care out-of-pocket. Prices for procedures, office visits, and medications are much lower than in the U.S. For example, a one-hour consultation with a specialist costs about $50.

MEXICO

In Mexico, every medium to large city has at least one first-rate hospital. Most doctors and dentists in Mexico received at least part of their training in the U.S., so they’re familiar with the care expats expect and they speak English. International Living’s Mexico Editor, Glynna Prentice, says, “In Mexico, I have access to two affordable healthcare systems: public and private. In Mexico’s private healthcare system, costs—pretty much across the board—run 25% to 50% of U.S. costs for comparable services. And as a legal resident in Mexico, I also have access to Mexico’s public healthcare system, which runs most people around $300 to $400 or so a year—or less,” says Prentice, one of an estimated 1 million Americans now living in Mexico.

Most common name-brand prescription drugs are available in Mexico—at 25% to 50% less than what they cost north of the border and generics are available for many off-patent drugs as well. Many doctors routinely make house-calls and phone you to inquire about your health, after treatment. In fact, many pharmacy chains provide a free physician whose office is attached to the pharmacy. Simply walk in and pay nothing for a consultation. And most medications do not require a prescription.

PANAMA

Panama provides good quality, affordable healthcare with clinics and hospitals tactically located in hubs across the country. Major facilities in Panama City are all affiliated with sister facilities in the U.S., from the likes of Miami Children’s Hospital (now Nicklaus Children’s) to Johns Hopkins International. And since the country is so small, it’s unlikely retirees will be more than an hour from a modern facility. “I’ve been in Panama for over ten years now and sometimes I forget just how good we have it until I go back to the States and see some of the prices,” says Jessica Ramesch, International Living Panama Editor.

“Though of course costs go up over time—everywhere—I am still spending around 50% less on doctor’s consults and dental appointments than my friends back in the States.

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