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Medical Tourism: An Unexpected Fringe Benefit for Expats

expat medical tourism

Sam Shall

Expats head down to Central America for the scenic beauty, the year-round spring-like weather and the low cost of living that makes these countries a prime retirement spot.

But now something new is drawing them in, the promise of world class health care at extremely affordable rates. And with such a short commute from Central America to the U.S., what could be better for North American expats?

For many people, choosing to travel overseas to receive medical treatment is basically a no-brainer (especially after the recession) and medical tourism is experiencing a new wave of popularity.

But does quality of Medical Treatment have to be sacrificed?

In short, no, the treatment you receive abroad can be just as good as the treatment you would have received back home and in fact, many expats claim that the treatment they received abroad was superior, with lower costs and shorter waits.

Recognizing the opportunity and getting on board with medical tourism, many of America’s top health care branches are expanding out to include countries that are known to be popular retirement spots and well-known insurers like Blue Cross are putting their own medical tourism programs into action.

So where in Central America can expats find the best health care?

1) Ecuador

First on the list is Ecuador and Cuenca in particular.

According to former U.S. hospital administrator Alex McClellan, Cuenca, Ecuador, may just be the newest medical tourism hot spot. And having worked in the medical tourism industry for years, in countries like Mexico, India, and China, McClellan knows a thing or two about the industry.

In Cuenca, expats can expect to pay around 7-10% of what they would have paid for medical procedures back home, without having to sacrifice quality.

A heart bypass that would cost $130,000 in the U.S., will cost closer to $10,000 in Cuenca and a hip replacement priced at anywhere from $43,000 to $51,000, only $8,000.

With price differences like that, it’s no wonder retirees are looking to Ecuador for the perfect spot to settle down.

2) Mexico

Next up is Mexico. Originally a popular spot for medical tourists due to its close proximity to the United States, Mexico now boasts many great medical facilities like Angeles Health.

The largest private hospital network in the country, Angeles Health has over 23 hospitals, 2,000 beds and 200 operating rooms, all staffed by 11,000 trained health care professionals.

Because of this, Angeles Health has become a sought out spot for medical tourists and the U.S.-based Angeles Health subsidiary is constantly setting up treatments for North American medical tourists.

3) Costa Rica

Already one of the most popular expat destinations in Central America, the high standard of health care that can be accessed in Costa Rica is just icing on the cake for many expats.

In Costa Rica, expats can receive the medical attention they require, in one of the many private accredited hospitals and again, the prices are much, much lower than back in the states; 50-70% lower in fact and the wait time for treatment or surgery is virtually non-existent, something that definitely cannot be said about the U.S.

While cosmetic and dental procedures were the most common medical tourist lures in the past, today many other surgeries and medical treatments are being performed, bringing in even more expats and medical tourists.

4) Panama

Each year, Panama is drawing in more expats with its beaches, weather and excellent business climate, but now, foreigners are coming for the health care system as well.

Many world class health care facilities can be found across Panama, each staffed with medical professionals trained to use the latest technology.

  • Clinica Hospital San Fernando: is Panama’s first private hospital and is known for its excellent inpatient pharmacy.
  • Centro Medico Paitilla (affiliated with Cleveland Clinic): can be found in the center of Panama City and is a great choice for tertiary care.
  • Hospital Punta Pacifica: is a John Hopkins-affiliated hospital and offers exceptional treatment for minimally invasive cardiac surgery, general surgery, neuro-surgery, and urology procedures.

When expats leave North America behind in search of the perfect retirement spot, their Medicare and private health insurance can’t be brought with them.

Fortunately the boom of medical tourism that is rushing through Central America at an incredible rate is making it possible for expats to get quality health care without having to fly back home.

If you are thinking about moving down to Central America, to live out your retirement years in tropical bliss, consider Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, or Panama.

These countries can give you the best of both worlds, the paradise you crave, coupled with the first world medical facilities you need to make you feel safe and comfortable.

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One thought on “Medical Tourism: An Unexpected Fringe Benefit for Expats

  1. 1

    nice article. In each country, there will always be a good health care services but there are countries that are better in offering their services. It is nice to know what are the best places in Central America in offering medical tourism.

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