Health Care and Retiring Abroad

Access and availability of health care and medical coverage within a country is an important part of deciding where to retire abroad.

When making a retirement plan, workers want future medical insurance that provides the greatest amount of coverage and quality within the field. Retiring in a foreign country opens up a senior to additional options for health coverage and new details to consider concerning health care in his or her future country of residence.

There are many factors that affect a retiree’s eligibility to receive different forms of health care in a foreign county, such as citizenship status, income, age and more. Workers planning for retirement abroad should research and consider their eligibility for insurance, the health care options available in different countries and cost of foreign medical care when determining the best place to settle down post-employment. The following sections cover typical health care options available for retirees around the world.

International Health Insurance

This form of insurance is ideal for retirees who travel around the world often. International health insurance plans, also called global insurance, provide different levels of coverage with varying costs of deductibles. Typically, international health insurance provides year-round protection for medical coverage where recipients can obtain medical treatment anywhere in the world. However, some global insurance plans do not cover insurance for expatriates who return to the U.S.

International health insurance can be expensive, depending on the level of coverage you would like to receive. For retirees who decide to purchase this form of insurance, the peace of mind knowing their medical expenses will be covered no matter where they travel can help them enjoy retirement to the fullest extent. Global insurance provides freedom for retirees to explore their bucket-list destinations during retirement without having to worry about covering medical costs.

Health Insurance Within a Foreign Country

Depending on the regulations and coverage options of the health care system in a foreign country, obtaining health insurance within a new country of residence is usually less expensive than taking out an international insurance policy. However, retirees can choose to supplement a foreign insurance plan with international insurance if more coverage is desired. While health care systems vary in countries across the world, many coverage plans within foreign countries are similar to those offered in the U.S. Many foreign medical insurance plans provide a network of medical establishments where seniors are able to receive care. Some countries provide both public and private insurance plans for residents to choose from.

Many developed countries offer universal health care for legal residents. If a retiree is granted resident status within a foreign country that offers universal health care, then they may be eligible for this form of insurance. In these countries, all or the majority of health costs are covered by the government. Some countries even offer specific health care plans for senior citizens. Research the health care programs available to you within your new country of residence to discover foreign options for medical coverage. Living in these countries allow your retirement savings to stretch further without the additional cost of health insurance.

Another factor to consider concerning health care in a foreign country is the cost of medical services in the area. Some countries have extremely low costs of care, while others have higher costs involved. Seniors living in countries with a very low cost for medical care can sometimes pay out of pocket for medical services, exams and/or surgeries. However, senior retirees should also consider the quality level of medical services and accessibility of care within a country when making important health care decisions. Living in a country where exceptional medical care is offered can mean life or death for retirees involved in emergency situations.

Hospital-Provided Insurance

Hospital-provided insurance only offers coverage within a specific hospital network. While this insurance option is often the least expensive, it is also the most restrictive since you can only obtain care through a certain network of hospitals. This form of insurance is usually only offered in urban areas, where many hospital networks are located. Most hospital-provided insurance plans provide comprehensive coverage to recipients. For retirees abroad taking out hospital-provided insurance, choosing a hospital network that is available in various other locations is the best option for having coverage in other areas. Learn about retiring abroad and taxes here.

Travel Insurance

For retirees and expatriates taking short-term residence in a foreign country, travel insurance is a health care option to consider. Taking out travel insurance allows U.S. provided insurance plans to stay intact while living in another country for a short period of time. Travel insurance typically provides coverage in emergency situations but does not cover regular medical visits or the care involved with chronic conditions and diseases. Seniors with chronic conditions and/or diseases may not want to travel extensively under travel insurance unless they have another form of coverage also available. Different coverage levels are available for travel insurance plans, depending on the amount you would like to spend and the length of time you will be out of the U.S.

Countries With Good Health Care

The countries that are well known for having good health care systems typically provide quality medical services at a lower cost to residents. These places also make health services easily accessible to residents. Workers looking to retire abroad may want to consider countries that are often cited as having better health care systems. The following countries have exceptional health coverage:

  • Ecuador offers little to no cost of medical care for legal senior citizen residents of the country. Foreign retirees must become residents to be eligible for this program.
  • Costa Rica offers both public and private health care systems. Public insurance also covers expatriates who have become legal residents. Private health care plans in Costa Rica are still well below U.S. prices.
  • Malaysia provides an ease of communication between doctors and Americans because many doctors speak English. Hospitals in Malaysia often provide specialists and have efficient patient admission systems.
  • Colombia holds some of the top hospitals in Latin America along with a certified translation department to make communication between American retirees and health care professionals easier. Colombia also offers government-provided health insurance plans for residents.

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