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Healthcare: An often-ignored aspect of the expat lifestyle

When you move to a new country, it’s important to understand the Healthcare system that you will be using going forward. Many countries in Central and South America have some of the best known healthcare systems in the world, for considerably less money and almost always less of a wait time.

It’s also important to remember that the healthcare system in your new location will be very different from what you have been accustomed to. Often you can make a phone call and have an appointment that day, unlike some top tier countries where your wait can be up to 6 weeks just for a doctors appointment and more than a year for surgery. I’ve talked to clients that have been told in the USA or Canada that their surgery will not take place for 18 months and they make a call to a top notched surgeon in Colombia or Ecuador to find that it can be done in 3 weeks time.

When you are ready to make the move to your new home, here are some really helpful tips to aid you in your search for your new healthcare provider:

Step 1: Learn the Local Language

Imagine falling really sick and being incapable of telling your doctor what you’re feeling. This language barrier can make it difficult to find the right treatment for your condition or medical emergencies. You should invest in language lessons to at least develop enough proficiency to tell your doctor what your medical needs are.

Learning a new language also helps you to simulate into the culture of the country you have decided to live in. No one wants to feel like an outsider. If you dedicate 1 hour per day (or more) to learning the language of your new country, you will feel at home quicker than you thought.

Step 2: Research

Before moving to a new country, look up what the healthcare system is like and where you’ll find the best medical care. You might even want to consider settling in a place close to where the best hospitals are in the region to prepare for possible medical emergencies.

Ideally, I would even suggest taking down names and numbers for doctors that you can visit in your local and visiting them ASAP once you touch down. Speak to them about possible conditions and develop professional relations with them to make it easier for you to seek out their help.

Often a visit to your doctor for a check-up may only cost you $10. It is a wonderful way to meet your new physician and shake hands with them. If and when an emergency arises, he/she will have some knowledge of who you are and this will make life easier for you.

Step 3: Speak To Your Doctor

Talk to your doctor in your country of origin to ask them about your medications and alternatives that you can find in your country of destination. They can guide you through your options and maybe refer you to associates in said country.

They will also tell you of any vaccines that you should get while keeping in mind your existing medical requirements. This can go a long way in avoiding any unnecessary medical inconveniences when you get to your new home.

Step 4: Get Medical Insurance

You should also get travel health insurance to make sure you’re covered for any possible medical emergencies. This is probably the most important step because financial barriers can effectively bar you from proper medical treatment. You should ask your coverage provider detailed questions about your policy, how much coverage they offer and what they will cover.


About The Author

Mikkel Thorup is the Director at EscapeArtist.com the oldest and largest offshore website in the world and host of The Expat Money Show podcast. He is also the author of #1 Best-Selling book Expat Secrets on Amazon. Mikkel has spent over 20 years in continual travel around the world, visiting more than 100 countries including Colombia, North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Iran. His goal is to help people just like you to generate additional streams of income, eliminate your tax bill, and take advantage of offshore structures so you can travel the world freely and never have to worry about money again. Follow Mikkel Thorup on Twitter @ThorupMikkel

5 thoughts on “Healthcare: An often-ignored aspect of the expat lifestyle

  1. I can say that appointment and surgery times in the U.S. are much better than what you describe. If you can’t get a Dr’s appointment here, there are many Emergency Clinics that have walk-in. They are equipped with X-ray machines and Labs that can handle many tests. I don’t know where you lived in the U.S., but our Doctors/Clinics are equipped with State of the Art knowledge. Yes, it will cost more. I’ve known a friend in Cuenca who’s hip replacement was totally botched.

    1. There’s plenty of botched surgeries to go around in the U.S., too, & in every specialty. Medical malpractice is big business in the U.S. “Yes, it will cost more,” for medical care in the U.S. That’s an understatement. I recently paid $190 for an MRI in EC. The equipment was new & state-of-the-art, made by GE in a beautiful suite of rooms. Thought I was in the U.S. The U.S. co-pay would’ve been a lot more than $190, & out-of-pocket full price without insurance in the U.S., a couple thousand & maybe more. In EC, I picked up the results with a complete radiologist’s report 2 hrs. later. Reviewed with surgeon a hour after that. Got the problem fixed. Very pleased.

        1. Thanks, Karin. My husband had a stroke here in EC. Six weeks of care here in 2 hospitals, followed by return to the U.S. & more hospitalization there because the doctors here in EC were hoping more could be done in the U.S. So I can compare the two health systems. I found the U.S. system to be cold, detached, & totally devoid of freedom of choice as to treatment & seeing any other doctors other than M.D.s when the preference was for our naturopath. I’ll stop there, but it was heartbreaking. There’s more freedom & options here in EC. But I’ve had friends here that couldn’t get their claims paid by insurance. What to do about that?

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