Despite being part of the national conversation for years, achieving the goal of affordable health care in the U.S. has remained elusive. According to eHealth’s Health Insurance Price Index Report, in 2016 the average monthly premium for family coverage was $833 and the annual deductible for family plans averaged almost $8000. Ouch!!
What most Americans don’t know is that these astronomical figures don’t necessarily exist outside their borders. We live in Ecuador and belong to the country’s national health care system. Our coverage is 100% with $0 deductible. There are no restrictions for age or pre-existing conditions.
Total monthly premium for both of us? Less than $100.
OK, you say, that’s impossible. What’s the catch? It is indeed possible and there is no catch.
Yeah, you say, but you’re in Ecuador. Do you go to a doctor or a witch doctor? The medical facilities there must be horrible. Nope. Physicians are well-trained and often bilingual. Especially in larger cities, the facilities and equipment are top-notch. The hospital above is located near our home in Cuenca.
The government system isn’t perfect. You can’t pick your doctor, and there could be lengthy waits for appointments with certain specialists. For that reason we pay out of pocket when we want to see a physician of our choice without delay. Office visits only cost $30-40 and necessary follow-ups are free.
Surgical procedures are similarly affordable if you have no medical insurance. Hip replacements cost an average of $40,000 in the U.S. In Ecuador expect to pay around $10,000. A mini-lift that averages $5000 in the States is only $700 here.
What about drugs? Same story. If you belong to the national plan and your medication is available at the affiliated hospital or clinic, you walk out with it free of charge. Otherwise most drugs are purchased over the counter at local pharmacies for a fraction of what you are used to paying. So follow-up refills don’t require an additional doctor visit for a new prescription.
These incredibly affordable health care costs are possible partly because the medical system in Ecuador is not bloated with inefficiency. It’s possible to call your doctor on his personal cell phone to arrange a same day visit. When you arrive at the office there is usually no staff, not even a nurse unless required by protocol. He spends as much time as needed to diagnose and treat your problem. You pay and you leave. Done.
Since we reside here, we use Ecuador merely as an example of the affordable and high quality health care that is available around the globe, especially in Latin America and the Far East. We encourage you to open your eyes to the reality that living abroad offers so many options to enjoy a fulfilling retirement on a modest budget.