Will Travel for Cheap Healthcare

One of the things that keeps me in my government job is the excellent health insurance. What I’m giving up is flexibility and the opportunity to chart my own course.  But if I’m hit by a bus or get cancer, I’m covered.  At some point you ask yourself, “Am I going to continue doing a job I’m not thrilled about just for the benefits?”  The answer I have finally come to is, “No!”  Fortunately I am a pretty healthy person, but the high cost of health care in the United States paralyzes me with the fear of the “what if” scenario.


So I’ve been researching the cost of healthcare in other countries.  What will it cost for me to see a doctor or have an operation if something happens while I’m traveling the world?  The answer I’ve come up with is . . . not very much.  Of course it will depend on the country I’m sure, but my cursory research has yielded pretty positive results.

I have some experience with obtaining healthcare abroad while traveling in my twenties.  I visited an emergency room twice while in Spain and had a small surgical procedure performed on my foot during one of the visits.  After the first trip to the emergency room I proceeded to check out and get my “bill.”  The woman stared at me blankly pondering over the idea of charging someone.  Healthcare was and is covered free of charge for European citizens.  So what to charge the American?  Nothing, that’s what.  No bill.  Nada.  I had a more diligent check out person for my next trip to the emergency room.  After asking around she gave me a bill for $100.  She didn’t ask for payment, just gave me the bill.  In the United States they don’t let you leave the hospital without paying first.  Some hospitals won’t even treat you if you don’t have insurance.  And, by the way, the healthcare I received was excellent, clean and courteous.  I know that will surprise some people in my country.

I have been researching travel health insurance plans.  I spoke to this wonderfully Scottish man from Cigna Worldwide who applauded me for my plan to travel the world.  He assured me that Cigna could provide me with health coverage anywhere in the world.  For $154 per month I receive $1million in annual inpatient benefits, total cancer coverage with direct billing to any health facility of my choice or need.  I have a $750 deductible and 20% cost share with a maximum of $2000 out of pocket expenses.  For $50 extra per month they will include medical evacuation.  For $100 extra per month I would get outpatient care with a $500 deductible and a 20% cost share.  This may seem expensive to my foreign friends, but it is a far better deal then I could ever possibly get in the United States.  Particularly since the Republican party is blowing up Obamacare and replacing it with who knows what.

I’ve decided I likely would not need the outpatient insurance because going to a doctor in foreign countries will not cost me hundreds of dollars like in the United States.  Reading a recent blog by an American expat, it appears you pay $40 for a doctor’s office visit in Panama.  A country that seems to have great healthcare as it attracts many retired Americans.  Forty dollars is the copay I pay in the United States.  I saw an accounting from another world traveler who is having a baby in Mexico.  Apparently it only costs $1,100 to have a baby including five check-ups and ultrasounds, courtesy of luxpats  .  While I’m not so excited about the health care system in Mexico, I have seen similar posts from world travelers indicating it costs under $5000 to have a baby in countries like Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.  My ObGyn charged me $5000 just to catch my second child!  To this day I regret not popping the kid out in my living room.

So not only can I see the world, but if I get sick or injured I won’t go bankrupt and won’t need to pay $1000 a month for health insurance.  Good to know.



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