What Happens If You Retire Abroad and Then Get Sick?

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Retiring to the simple life in, say, Costa Rica, sounds absolutely fantastic. And there is certainly a lot of upside to disappearing from the rat race and spending your golden years in a tropical paradise. More and more, baby boomers are doing just that – as the globe has shrunk and international travel has become more common, expatriate retirees have become more common.

But before you get too carried away with visions of paradisiacal sunsets dancing in your head, here’s an important question a lot of folks don’t consider when retiring abroad: “What about healthcare benefits?”

Will your health insurance be accepted in your new home? Even if it is accepted, will you be able to afford it? And if not, what are your alternatives?

It’s important to know that those Medicare benefits you contributed to for so many years do not travel with you when you go abroad. That might not seem fair but that’s the way it is, at least for now. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, the sponsored plan from your old employer is very likely going to cost more than it did on the day you left the company. And will continue to rise in price.

In its 2012 Retirement Index, International Living identified the 19 best places for Americans to retire abroad; their study included a look at individual nations’ healthcare systems, which is obviously an important piece of the equation – it doesn’t matter how good your health insurance is if the hospitals are lousy.

What it boils down to is taking ownership of this important issue and doing a risk analysis. Before moving abroad, you need to consider numerous factors such as the healthcare system of your destination country, the financial health of your former employer, the stability of the country you’re moving to and, obviously, any preexisting conditions you may have. The best alternative may include purchasing an expat health insurance plan, ideally one that includes medical assistance services to help you navigate the healthcare realities of your new home.

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One Response

  1. John Scherber

    February 17, 2014 6:51 pm

    We chose San Miguel de Allende six years ago for its combination of climate, culture and the basic warmth of its people. I became interested in the process of becoming an expat and wrote a book based on conversations with 32 Americans and Canadians who had also made the move. It’s mainly a way of getting inside their heads. It’s called San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart. Here’s a link to an excerpt on my website:
www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/aplaceintheheart.html

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