A new report indicates a burgeoning trend among Americans deciding whether or not to keep living in the U.S.: more and more of them are opting to become expatriots and are citing higher health costs as a primary reason.
The data comes from International Living, which has released in a new report entitled "Why U.S. Healthcare So Much Cheaper Outside the U.S.?" In it, study analysts cite recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that in 2017 insurers will raise the premiums for plans sold through government health care insurance exchanges by an average of 22% - about triple the 7.5% increase from 2015 to 2016.
Figures like that have caught the U.S. public's attention, and more citizens are voting on the issue with their feet and their passports, International Living reports.
"As the Affordable Care Act pushes costs for insurance coverage up for some, more Americans are looking abroad to avoid rising healthcare and insurance costs," the report states, "(We're looking) at retirees who have lowered their healthcare costs abroad in locales where healthcare is both of high quality and low cost."
The study also points out the Affordable Car Act didn't change the way heath care prices are established - they're still negotiated by the large insurance carriers. In many overseas bourses, though, health care prices are controlled by country governments and are often uniformly tied to the local cost of living.
"For these reasons, health care plans can cost a small fraction outside the U.S. than they would within U.S. borders," International Living reports. "In Panama, Costa Rica, or Mexico, for example, a couple might spend $250 a month, depending on age and other factors, for comprehensive, low-deductible private health insurance. In Ecuador, a couple can join the IESS social security plan for about $80 a month... and that would include prescription coverage."
International Living editor Jason Holland made the move to the tropics, and he says lower health care costs were a big reason.
"One of the most important reasons we moved to Costa Rica was the low-cost medical care," he says. "And not just that it's cheap but that it's good, essentially North American standard care."
Other expats say that the Affordable Care Act has underperformed, and it has them looking elsewhere not only for health care, but for a new home, as well.
"Health care is a factor, because Obamacare has been a disappointment, especially for those who normally can pay for health care," says William Seavey, author of the book Americanada.us on U.S. and Canada relations and why so many Americans are moving to Canada.
Seavey says the Canadian and Mexican health care systems are attracting more Americans, including some in his hometown of Cambria, Calgary. "Canadian health care isn't perfect, but locals only grouse about it because of longer wait lists for elective surgeries, like knee replacements," Seavey says. Otherwise, he says, the Canadian system is superior to the U.S. health care system.
Seavey also says he also owns a home in Baja, Mexico where he and his wife get cheap dental care without having to become expats. "But if we did become expats, we could get onto the Mexican Social Security system, and get lower cost doctor visits and hospitalization. I know some people who already do."
Some U.S. expats say that, while health care costs weren't the only reason they left, the issue was a big factor in bidding Uncle Sam goodbye - and not coming back.
"I'm an American expat, and although I can't say that I left the U.S. because of the high costs of health care, the high costs are serving as a major disincentive for me to return," says Aaron Anderson, a self-employed U.S. expat now residing in Bulgaria.
"For the self-employed especially, the costs for health insurance in the U.S. are not very reasonable, Anderson notes. "To insure myself, my wife, and my son, would minimally cost around $500 a month. What can I get for $500 a month? Well, here in Bulgaria, I can rent a fully furnished two bedroom apartment for less than $300 a month."
Anderson says he's currently uninsured in Bulgaria, but isn't worried about it. "The costs for health care are so reasonable outside of the U.S., that the risk of being uninsured isn't that high," he says. "But the cost of health care in the U.S. is so high that you have to be insured, because if you're not, you'll go bankrupt in the case of a medical
emergency, not to mention that now the ACA requires it, or you get issued a tax penalty."
Way too many people in the U.S. don't really know how bad and how expensive health care is in America, Anderson says. "But, if they spend any time outside of the U.S., they'll come to see how outrageous the health care experience is in America," he adds.
Increasingly, that's the sentiment from Americans who've moved overseas, and who have experienced different, and better, health care experiences.
In more and more cases, that experience isn't making expats all that passionate about coming back to the U.S..