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The Benefits Of Health Care And Health Insurance Overseas

03 Jan
American Hospital in Paris

The Benefits Of Health Care And Health Insurance Overseas

Worried About Health Care And Insurance Costs? Don’t Be. This Is Why…

Two things Americans obsess over when thinking about traveling and even more so when considering moving outside the United States are health care and health insurance.

These are two important considerations, of course, but in the United States right now they’re also political footballs.

I have good news for you. That’s not the case in the rest of the world.

Outside the United States, health care and health insurance are far less dramatic topics.

They’re also far less costly.

Insurance and pharmaceutical companies in the United States have conspired to make the cost of health care more expensive in the United States than anywhere else in the world.

Many doctors in the States will offer to reduce their bills by as much as 50% if you explain that you are self-pay—that is, that no insurance company will be involved.

In every country outside the States where I’ve seen a doctor, the cost has been a fraction what I’ve paid for a comparable physician visit in the States.

We pay US$30 for checkups at the clinic near our office in Panama City, for example… and, this week in France, a doctor paid me a house call for 70 euros. That’s about US$80.

Last time I needed to see a doctor in the United States, I was in Baltimore, Maryland. The visit to the walk-in clinic to have a doctor take a look at my throat was US$125. With the add-ons, the total bill came to US$160.

In Paris this week, I again wanted a doctor to take a look at my throat. It’s been bothering me since Christmas, and I was thinking my tonsils might be infected.

I didn’t need to go across town and sit in a waiting room full of other also potentially infectious people. Instead, I called SOS Médecins.

This service has been around for decades, and we’ve used it many times over the years. You can call anytime… 24 hours a day… and ask for an English-speaking doctor to come to your home. Most of the time the person making the appointment on the phone speaks English, too.

The doctor showed up at my apartment within a few hours of my call, examined me, recommended a natural remedy and also wrote a prescription for antibiotics, told me to eat a kiwi every morning (for the vitamin C), and encouraged me to get in touch again if my condition didn’t improve. He spent a good 15 minutes with me… which is at least twice as long as the doctor in that walk-in place in Baltimore.

Total cost at the pharmacy for the non-generic items the doctor insisted on was less than 15 euros.

All in, the doctor visit and the medicine cost less than US$100, and I didn’t have to leave my home.

Other Treatments In Paris

A friend is having substantial dental work done in Paris, including implants, crowns, and veneers. The cost is about half what it would be in the United States, and it’s hard to imagine better-quality or higher-tech care. The dental surgeon even called my friend the Sunday evening before Christmas to check to see how he was doing.

Dental work is probably the second most common form of treatment sought by medical tourists, after cosmetic surgery. However, most Americans head south in search of more affordable dental care, rather than to Europe. In fact, both are good options.

I’ve been to chiropractors in a half-dozen countries at least, including several different chiropractors in the United States, and ours in Paris is the best. A visit with him runs 60 euros, which is maybe high compared with U.S. prices, but this guy isn’t the typical bone cruncher I’ve seen in the States processing patients as quickly as possible with standard back and neck adjustments. My guy in Paris spends around 15 minutes with me each visit checking everything, making adjustments, checking again, and then making final adjustments. Each visit is different, depending on what I need on the day.

Over the years friends and colleagues have told stories about the excellent and inexpensive health care they’ve received overseas, both in places where they were living and in places where they were traveling. Of course, you can find quacks and have bad experiences overseas just like you can in the United States, but I’d say with confidence that, many places overseas, you can find better care than in the States… and everywhere the cost will be less.

So much less in some places that it can make sense to pay for care as you need it rather than insuring against the cost.

If the thought of going through life without health insurance makes you twitch, know that, in most countries, local health insurance companies won’t cover your pre-existing conditions… and most won’t write you a new policy if you are 60 or 65 years of age.

International health insurance options will accept you as a new policy-holder up until your 74th birthday, and a few (including Cigna Global, for example) will let you in up to age 80.

Beyond that age, you have some workaround options, but you’ll want to hold on to your insurance back home.

Lief Simon