I’m a big fan of Kathleen Peddicord’s website, Live and Invest Overseas. I get her Overseas Opportunity Letter, and look forward to it hitting my inbox every day. I even subscribe to her Overseas Retirement Letter.
Most of the time, I think she and her writers are completely on target. Once in a while, not so much.
Paul Terhorst is a regular columnist, writing about investments and his own personal experiences of living abroad as a semi-retired person since the age of 35.
In a recent Overseas Opportunity Letter, Paul wrote:
“Read almost any article in the mainstream press about retiring overseas, and the writer almost invariably starts by evaluating the local health care situation. ‘Country A offers high-quality, low-cost health care…Country B allows expats to buy into the national health plan.’
“I’ve long been puzzled by this emphasis on health care.”
He then went on to discuss the risks of seeking medical treatment and compared it to the risks we find in everyday life — crossing a street, riding in an airplane, just living.
“I decided that, to the extent possible, I’d remain in charge. Whether Doc happened to be from Mexico or some other country made little difference, I figured. What made a difference was me. I’d ask others I trusted to recommend a doctor or hospital. I’d look over the clinic, find out if Doc spoke my language, pay attention to the way he conducted himself, and look at how he charged.”
All perfectly true, logical and sensible — and totally unrelated to why Americans like this one are panicking about health care.
Having been an expat for so long, Paul doesn’t understand what’s driving American future expats’ preoccupation with health care overseas.
It’s not the risk, Paul. We’re all grownups. We know that choosing a doctor is just as risky –- maybe even more risky –- at home in the US than it will be overseas.
It’s the money and the stress.
You’ve had the good fortune to live for years in countries of your choice where costs for medical procedures are reasonable. As residents of the US, we’ve lived for years with costs running completely amok, insurance covering less and less of those costs, and the likelihood of bankruptcy if we have the temerity to fall ill.
The last job I had (which melted away with the financial crisis 15 months ago), my employer covered my health insurance. Even so, I paid thousands of dollars every year in copays. And that was just for me. To add my husband to the policy would have cost over $1200 each month, and another $300 for my daughter, so they went without insurance.
The cost of insurance to cover our family of three right now is roughly three times the size of our modest mortgage. It’s also impossible.
So when I ask questions and stress over health care overseas, it’s not the medical risk I’m concerned about, it’s the financial exposure.
I just want to feel secure that if I get sick I won’t lose the few resources I have left. I don’t want to worry that a small hospitalization will cost me the roof over my head and my ability to put a meal on the table.
People wonder why Americans are getting sicker and sicker. For many of us, it’s the quality of medical care (or lack thereof) and the knowledge that, if we avail ourselves of it, we’ll lose everything we’ve worked our whole lives for.
It’s enough to make anyone sick.
Is health care driving you overseas? Share your thoughts by clicking the Comment link below.