October 12, 2011
If you’ve followed this letter for any length of time, you know that I hardly spend any time in the United States. Sure I visit friends and family from time to time, but professionally I’m much more interested in what’s happening outside of North America.
You might be surprised to know that, despite how little time I spend there, I actually have a small health insurance policy to cover emergencies and unforeseen medical problems while I’m traveling. After all, you never know when you’re going to end up with a police baton to the cranium these days.
Now, I know that America’s politicians and crackerjack team of central bankers don’t see any signs of ‘non-transitory’ inflation, but anyone who has been to the doctor or written a check for an insurance policy knows otherwise. Hey, they’re on government health plans anyways, how could they know?
My little plan essentially only covers accidents, emergencies, and catastrophes, yet I still receive an annual (or sometimes semi-annual) Dear John letter from Aetna that usually starts something like this:
Due to the continually rising cost of healthcare, we regret to inform that we your monthly premium will now be raised to ______.”
The increase is usually in the ballpark of 10% to 20%. It’s crazy to think about the thousands of dollars each year that go out the door on a plan that I never use, all so that I don’t get stuck with a $200,000 emergency room bill in case of some highly improbable event. It makes no rational economic sense.
In every other country that I travel to, I don’t have any insurance. If I go to the doctor, I pay cash. If I go to the emergency room (and it’s happened quite a few times), I pay cash. This is one of the great things about travel and living overseas– healthcare is usually quite reasonable, often downright cheap.
And as for quality, westerners are typically brainwashed into thinking that doctors outside of North America and old Europe are all quacks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Here in Thailand, for example, many of the doctors themselves are actually westerners who have chosen to relocate to Thailand. Others are Thai but have studied overseas in places like Switzerland and Canada. Many speak three or four languages.
Thailand has become a model of medical tourism; patients come from all over the world to receive high quality, inexpensive treatment. I was just at Bangkok Hospital in Pattaya yesterday. It’s a clean, modern, highly efficient facility where the price of treatment is often shocking.
The hospital is always full of westerners who are there for procedures ranging from childbirth to cosmetic surgery to cancer treatment. One person scheduled an elective appendectomy– his prepaid ‘package’ price was about $3,600 including several days in a luxury recovery suite.
Another man that I met said that, aside from the ridiculously inexpensive doctor visit, his high blood pressure medication costs 70% less in Thailand than he used to pay back home.
And then there’s Bangkok’s Bumrungrad Hospital, which has become renowned for its top quality care and efficiency. The hospital is so well organized that Microsoft bought the patient management software a few years ago.
Patients hardly spend any time in a waiting room; you’re in and out of there very quickly. When you’re finished with the doctor, you settle up with the cashier, and most people walk away staring at the receipt in disbelief.
Now, Thailand isn’t the only place in the world that delivers high quality, inexpensive healthcare, and specialized niche hubs are developing. India, for example, is quickly becoming one of the top destinations for fertility treatment.
Curiously, other countries are great for health insurance; we recently published a story in Sovereign Man: Confidential about high quality care in Chile, as well as contact information to buy low-cost health insurance that covers you worldwide, even when you’re not in Chile! It’s an extraordinarily valuable policy.
The other thing that I’ll mention about international healthcare is that it opens up a world of possibilities that might not otherwise be available back home. I have some friends who are en route to China right now to receive stem cell treatment. Another routinely gets HGH (human growth hormone) injections in Panama.
Whatever it is you’re looking to do, there are places in the world where it’s perfectly legal, low cost, and high quality: three great reasons to consider internationalizing yet another part of your life.