Health: The 7 Best Havens for Quality Care Overseas

“There is something amazing about the medical system here, and something not quite right with ours,” says Shane Simons, who moved to the tropical island of Penang, Malaysia, eight months ago from Los Angeles.

“My doctor in L.A. told me I needed a mole removed from my neck. I was in his waiting room for 45 minutes and his consulting room for 45 seconds. That cost me $2,000. He recommended I get it removed at a cost of $5,000. I saw a specialist in Penang and it cost me $30 and it turned out the mole was fine.”

When Mike Sherrer moved to Panama, he says he thought he would return to the U.S. for any major medical procedures. “Now I think that, if I were in the U.S., I’d come to Panama for any medical treatment. The health care is great.”

Mike paid just $700 for a surgery that he says could have cost him 400% more back in Florida. And that $700 included the operating room, doctors’ fees, everything.

What impressed Mike most, though, was the personal touch: “The thing about the doctors here is they give you time…”

Does a new life overseas mean you have to compromise on health care? The answer is a definitive “no.” Like Shane and Mike, you’ll find excellent, affordable care in many locations overseas. But where?

For our 2013 Health Care Survey, we asked our experts to reveal what’s on offer in seven of the world’s best havens today. These are the most popular countries with expats: places that score high on quality of life in general. Where you’ll find affordable real estate or a lower cost of living… where the dream you nurture can be a reality.

But what about the health care? When you’re considering health care overseas, you want three basic questions answered: First, what’s available? For instance, are the hospitals modern and well-equipped? Do they have affiliations with well-respected international hospitals? Is there a good network of clinics? Can you find the drugs you need?

Second, just how good is the care? Is the staff well-trained? Do the doctors stay on top of the latest treatments? Will you find the right specialists? How long will you have to wait for appointments? Does the country have national standards for accepted practice?

And finally, how much does it cost? When it comes to our health, we’ll pay what it takes to get the outcome we want. But in these seven destinations, that amount needn’t break the bank. In fact, costs are so low in some places that expats simply pay out of pocket—without compromising on quality. In others, expats mix and match public and private systems to get the best bang for their buck.

The solution that’s right for you depends a lot on your needs and wants. But in the April issue of International Living magazine, we’ll give you the on-the-ground insights and recommendations to get you started on your way.

Editor’s note: We’ll tell you all about the seven best havens for health care overseas in the April issue of International Living magazine—including real-life accounts from places such as Costa Rica, France and Ecuador. If you’re already a subscriber, you can subscribe here and get instant access to this issue.

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