The American Healthcare System and Your Bankruptcy
And What Do You Really Know about Mexican Healthcare?
In spite of my good health, I was living in fear in the U.S.
Like distant hoof beats thundering on the horizon, I would hear that perfectly healthy friends my age in Denver were paying over $600 a month for health insurance.
In spite of the coverage they still didn't have any confidence that their insurer would cover the cost of one of those $100,000 a year cancer drugs if they needed it one day. One friend, also in her 50’s, is whittling away at a $5,000 deductible on a $45,000 a year income.
These are healthy people. I am sure there are thousands of worse stories out there in our republic. Sooner or later, everyone gets sick.
Unless you have several million put away or are one of the disappearing breed of people whose health care is covered as part of a pension plan, whether or not your health care expenditures will leave you destitute in your old age has become largely a crap-shoot.
If ever there wasn't a guarantee in this world, it's that you'll always have employment and be covered by insurance there. People lose their jobs for reasons both logical and capricious. The odds are even longer post-fifty that you'll finding new employment and medical coverage.
The U.S has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, and only to be ranked dead last among high-income nations, according to Newsweek.
More than one half of all bankruptcies are caused by medical debt. Three quarters of those filing for bankruptcy have medical insurance when they become ill or injured.
Loans to cover healthcare costs are not uncommon, meaning some are paying high insurance premiums and loan payments to stay alive.
Experts believe that a healthy couple age 65 will need between $245,000 and $266,000 for health care costs. In an odd paradox, the healthier you are, the more money you need to have saved because you will live longer, have health care expenses longer, and be more likely to have more expensive end-of-life care.
U.S policies are not based on health, but rather profit. As the online magazine Salon puts it in an excellent article, “America’s Broken Healthcare Has Fallen Off the Radar,” healthcare has become a commodity, sickness seen largely as a source of profit.”
In that same article, Carl Boggs, professor at National University in his book, “Drugs, Power, and Politics: Narco Wars, Big Pharma, And The Subversion of Democracy” puts it even more powerfully:
“The practice of medicine in the United States since World War II cannot be understood without discussing the rapid growth of a labyrinthine corporate network — hospitals, clinics, institutes, universities — combined with an even larger ensemble of business interests: Big Pharma, insurance companies, finance, energy, food, agriculture, and the chemical industry. This corporate empire amounts to the most costly, bureaucratic, and commodified medical system ever created — a system in which failure and iatrogenesis are built into its very modus operandi…
While people suffering from chronic illnesses can spend tens of thousands of dollars for drugs and hundreds of thousands more for hospital stays of a few weeks, CEOs and hospital executives, Big Pharma and insurance firms make huge profits and salaries…amassing] private fortunes from human misfortune and suffering…
With trillions of dollars spent by a public inundated with advertising, fearful of alternatives, and anxious to find ready fixes, life expectancy in the United States ranks fiftieth among nations — and overall health indicators are no more flattering, placing it near the bottom of industrialized countries.
Journalist Conor Lynch goes on to conclude that without a broad progressive movement that confronts the entire corporate state, healthcare will remain one of the many sectors corrupted by stock options and returns.
As cases in point, drugs are two to six times more expensive on average in the U.S. than other countries, the most expensive in the world. The same impressive statistic is achieved in medical devices; hip and knee replacements and implants. According to The Economist, these high prices are unlikely to change.
Pharmaceutical companies spend more on lobbying (illegal in Mexico by the way) than any other industry, a quarter of a billion in 2015 alone. R&D doesn’t begin to explain the level of profit these companies are making.
If even proposed transparency laws, which would shine a spotlight on skyrocketing drug prices by providing cost data on expensive drugs are not able move up in State House Committees like Colorado's, do you think that a “broad progressive movement” will come in time to the rescue the 76.4 million Baby Boomers trying to stay healthy through retirement and maintain even a decent standard of living?
I am still investigating healthcare options in Mexico. High quality health insurance with a private insurer will cost me $1,400 a year, and international health insurance companies also sell excellent expat policies. The last quote I received was about $400 a month but a very comprehensive program.
Expat policies will generally cover your expenses anywhere except the U.S. (and maybe Japan).They want nothing to do with our corrupted system.
Most drugs are cheaper, much cheaper in Mexico. Many doctors here received their training in the U.S. Many hospitals in Mexico are excellent. Routine tests cost a fraction of what they do in the States.
Most expats I talk to are very happy with their level of care here, and some have very serious health issues. American misconceptions about Mexican healthcare are just as outlandish as our misconceptions about safety in Mexico.
The Mexican healthcare system and its costs at least make sense, although their system is different in some ways. For example, for hospital stays, you may need to have a relative or friend bring your meals and take care of your personal needs. Although odd to us, this still makes more sense than spending $78,000 for a hip replacement.
I still hear the hoof beats of impending doom of being caught up in the American healthcare cartel. But at least now I’m not standing stone-still on American soil waiting to be mowed down.
"The Dicey Retirement Gamble Americans Are Making" by Next Avenue
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Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico including "If Only I Had a Place" a guide to renting in Mexico for the aspiring expat.
She is also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. Get started learning Spanish for the health of your brain and for coming to Mexico.