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If American Health Care Is So Great, Why Do So Many Americans Go Elsewhere For It?

Whenever conservatives start telling me what a great healthcare system we have, I say, "Yes, and we make very nice yachts, too. What's your point?"

Whenever conservatives start telling me what a great healthcare system we have, I say, "Yes, and we make very nice yachts, too. What's your point?" Because what earthly difference does it make to you when you're priced out of that system?

I've known Americans who've gone to Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Mexico and Austria for medical and dental treatment they couldn't afford here. (In fact, Logan wrote about this a few weeks ago.) If people are getting on a plane to go somewhere to get treatment, that's got to tell you something:

MEXICO CITY — It sounds almost too good to be true: a health care plan with no limits, no deductibles, free medicines, tests, X-rays, eyeglasses, even dental work — all for a flat fee of $250 or less a year.

To get it, you just have to move to Mexico.

As the United States debates an overhaul of its health care system, thousands of American retirees in Mexico have quietly found a solution of their own, signing up for the health care plan run by the Mexican Social Security Institute.

The system has flaws, the facilities aren't cutting-edge, and the deal may not last long because the Mexican government said in a recent report that it is "notorious" for losing money. But for now, retirees say they're getting a bargain.

"It was one of the primary reasons I moved here," said Judy Harvey of Prescott Valley, who now lives in Alamos, Sonora. "I couldn't afford health care in the United States. … To me, this is the best system that there is."

It's unclear how many Americans use IMSS, but with between 40,000 and 80,000 U.S. retirees living in Mexico, the number probably runs "well into the thousands," said David Warner, a public policy professor at the University of Texas.

"They take very good care of us," said Jessica Moyal, 59, of Hollywood, Fla., who now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a popular retirement enclave for Americans.

The IMSS plan is primarily designed to support Mexican taxpayers who have been paying into the system for decades, and officials say they don't want to be overrun by bargain-hunting foreigners.

"If they started flooding down here for this, it wouldn't be sustainable," said Javier Lopez Ortiz, IMSS director in San Miguel de Allende.

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