A major concern among many expats is ensuring that they can receive high quality, cost-effective medical care while abroad. As you can no doubt guess, standards of care – and the associated costs – can differ wildly around the world.
Many first-world destinations such as the USA, Canada and Scandinavia offer exceptional levels of medical care – but at a high price. Unless you’re a Russian oil-baron you’ll want to ensure that you have a healthy expatriate healthcare policy to cover all eventualities.
Even the British government reports that “a stomach bug treated in a Californian hospital with returns flights cost £100,000” while a fall in Spain resulting in a broken hip could cost you £15,000. That’s a lot of money if you have to pay out of pocket – hence the government’s stipulation that “when travelling overseas it is important to take out travel insurance”.
At the other end of the scale many developing nations have received a reputation – deserved or otherwise – for lower-quality standards of care. Worse, these standards of care don’t always result in lower healthcare costs.
The question is really where the “sweet spot” is? Where can one find top-quality healthcare at reasonably affordable prices?
According to expat information service International Living some of the very best countries for expat healthcare are actually to be found in Central America.
Top of the International Living chart comes Malaysia, rapidly becoming a medical tourism hotspot. According to their experts, healthcare routinely costs just half – or even less – than it would in the USA. As a result an increasing number of travellers are opting to have work done there rather than at home. Some budget-savvy individuals are even travelling there especially for cosmetic surgery which they otherwise couldn’t afford.
It’s not just the costs that are attracting expats; many hospitals in major cities maintain “tourist wings”, complete with English-speaking doctors and translators speaking dozens of languages. As a result individuals with limited foreign language skills can still receive the standards of care they have learned to expect.
The second location singled out by International Living is Colombia; once a tourist no-go zone thanks to the drug-related gang violence to be found here. In recent decades, however, the gangs have largely been eradicated and the hospitals have been modernized while the costs of medical care remain low.
The third top recommendation is Costa Rica, famed for its stunning jungles and white sandy beaches. Expats can benefit from both the public and private healthcare systems, the latter of which is typically staffed by English-speaking doctors trained in the very latest medical techniques yet charging a fraction of what you’d pay in the US or UK.