How to Handle Your Health Abroad
Sep 20, 2013
Regardless of your age, financial situation, current health or country of choice; if a move abroad is in your future, healthcare – and what to do about it – is likely at the top of your mind. After all, no matter how healthy you are right now, an accident or unexpected illness is something that can happen without warning and, in many cases, without your control.
So what do you do? Unless you’re in a job that includes international insurance (such as the military), the likelihood that your home-country medical insurance will cover you outside its borders is slim to none.
Thankfully, there are other options… you can buy into a local insurance plan, an international insurance plan or simply choose no plan and pay as you go. In all of these cases, the cost to you will almost always be cheaper then your options back home – specifically if that happens to be the US.
Of course, buying into a local insurance plan or an international insurance plan (great if you plan to visit other countries from your new ‘home base’) will give you peace of mind, especially if you have a pre-existing condition… but what about just ‘winging it’? Or does the thought of not having an insurance company behind you give you sweaty palms and heart palpitations? If so, consider this: a basic doctor check-up in Costa Rica ranges from $30 - $50, a dental check-up and cleaning in Ecuador is $20 - $40 and an X-ray in Honduras will only set you back $11 - $20. Pretty affordable! Especially if you’re currently in good health and only need annual or bi-annual check-ups… and these prices (specifically the higher end) are for clinics and hospitals that are not sub-standard facilities. In fact, in most cases they’re private. After all, people travel thousands of miles to visit these countries specifically to have these procedures done! Hence the term ‘medical tourism’.
Ok, so people may not travel those distances for a simple dental check-up and cleaning, but you get the idea…
Besides, even if you’re in the ‘no insurance’ camp, there are options. Consider perhaps a separate savings account specifically on reserve for healthcare needs. An emergency root canal is only going to set you back a few hundred dollars instead of thousands, a fairly easy financial burden to stomach, especially if you’ve been ‘saving’ for it. Call it your very own health insurance reserve!
That being said, there are definitely folks in the ‘definitely need insurance camp’. If this is the case, you have two options… a local healthcare policy or an international one. The differences are exactly how they sound; allow us to explain:
Local Health Insurance
This type of insurance is purchased in the new country you’re moving to/living in. The main benefit to this insurance option is that it’s typically very inexpensive. Naturally, your age and existing health are determining factors of what you’ll pay, but on average you can expect to pay between $50 and $80 a month.
The only negative aspect of these policies is that they can only be used in the country you purchased them in. And sometimes, only at certain hospitals and clinics. This isn’t always the best way to go if you plan to travel outside of your new country and wish to remain insured… a shame, because travel within Latin America, once you’re living there, is easy and affordable and can open up a whole new world of adventure! But, if you have no plans to move about and look forward to staying put, this is an excellent option for you.
International Health Insurance
This insurance is exactly how it sounds… it will follow you no matter where in the world you go. An excellent option for those looking to make frequent visits back ‘home’ to see family and friends, or when travelling outside of your new home country.
Yes, international health insurance is more expensive then the local option, but it has much more flexibility. Besides, if you’re American, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that even international health insurance is still considerably less then your previous options (Medicare excepted).
Choosing whether or not to purchase health insurance when you move abroad is a personal choice, but there are some examples where you can have the best of both worlds… if you’re American and are collecting Social Security, you’re required to maintain at least a portion of your Medicare, meaning that you would still have some coverage during trips ‘back home’. If you’re Canadian, you need to spend a minimum of 6 months in Canada per year (rules differ slightly from province to province) in order to maintain your healthcare; not the best option if you’re hoping to live somewhere full-time, but an option if you’re looking to live a ‘snowbird’ type of lifestyle.
Overall, moving to a new country – either full or part time – is an adventure, and everyone has their own personal reason for doing it. If having health insurance is important to you, do as much research as you can before making the move to ensure you have a full understanding of the prices and qualifications. But, if you’re in good health and don’t feel like shelling out each month for insurance, take comfort in the fact that Latin America has very affordable healthcare that you can take full advantage of, if need be!
A Discovery Weekend to visit one of our developer partners offers an excellent opportunity to ask questions about healthcare options. After all, you’ll be meeting with people that live there and experience the day-to-day… who better to get information from?! And of course, healthcare isn’t the only affordable thing Latin America has going for it, we would love to share our affordable real estate locations with you too!