Medical care outside the United States is one of the top five worries our clients have when planning for their WorldTowning journey. This no longer worries us as we embark on our fourth year of travel; however, I remember our early days of research and all the concerns we had about vaccines, diseases and the possibility of inadequate healthcare outside the U.S. The reason we are no longer concerned is in large part due to the fact that we have had nothing but amazing medical experiences in three very different countries (on three different continents) thus far, and we expect the same going forward. That is not to say every country in the world will be able to provide the same standard of care we have received, but, overall, I’m here to tell you that worry about adequate medical care should be less prominent than it is.
Medical Care Outside the
Our journey into international medical care took us through several scenarios: a five day stay in a Paris childrens’ hospital because of a lump on Avalon’s neck, which was quickly diagnosed as mononucleousis; pre-cancer cells removed from my cervix by a doctor in Costa Rica; oral surgery in Costa Rica to remove a root under a crown; multiple emergency-room visits in Costa Rica, involving xrays, blood and urine testing, and more. And, if that was not enough, in Ecuador we visited a neurologist, a burn specialist and a pediatrician to discuss an allergy to a local pesticide. One of us also underwent a colonscopy with full anesthesia. In France, our medical visits were very few and far between, but I made sure to keep up with my annual pap and a mammogram, as I had also done in previous countries.
In each medical situation, we interacted with knowledgeable doctors who had a love for medicine and a comforting bedside manner. Never once did we feel that we were receiving substandard medical care. The offices were professional. The equipment was modern, clean and well-functioning. And, the medical staffs were welcoming, knowledgeable and helpful when I lacked a grasp of the language.
Let’s talk money. If you read this post, you know that our insurance does not cover office visits. If we were in the U.S. where healthcare costs are the highest in the world per capita, we would be very concerned; however, outside the U.S., office visits are a fraction of the cost. I have paid between $100 to $150 for a mammogram in three different countries now. Two developing countries and one more- industrialized country. We have had ER visits in two developing countries, and each visit cost us around $350 USD. During the visits, we also had x-rays, blood tests and a visit from a specialist. For the procedures that were more complicated and involved some anesthesia, we have paid under $800 USD. This has included oral surgery, pre-cancer cell removal and a colonoscopy. We have not broken any bones and we do not have chronic conditions to manage at the moment. While either of these would increase costs, they also would probably be covered under our insurance.
Considerations for WorldTowners
Knowing what we know now, if we had it to do all over again, what would we do to ease our inexperienced nerves about medical care outside the U.S.? In other words, what might you consider doing to help make your WorldTowning transition as worry-free a possible when it comes to medical care. Here are our suggestions:
- Ask the locals about the medical care. Find someone who has either lived in your future WorldTowning location or who is currently living there. Do not ask someone who has vacationed at the location, it is not the same. Make sure you ask the big questions. Did they ever visit an ER? What was their experience like? How much did it cost? Did they feel like the doctor was knowledgeable. Basically, ask about anything and everything regarding the doctors and medical facilities.
- Get medical insurance and evacuation insurance. If you have insurance, you have choices in terms of the quality and speed of care. In addition, you are more apt to visit a medical facility in a potentially serious situation, if you know you have insurance to cover it. Also, if you find yourself in a community where you cannot get the care you need because the location is remote or the availability of services is limited, evacuation insurance can save your life.
- Find doctors before you leave your home country through recommendations. If you have a chronic condition or the medical care situation is causing you great distress, align yourself with doctors before you leave. Before we left Costa Rica, Avalon had a chronic situation. We were fairly confident it was an allergy, but, just to be certain, we made an appointment for the day after we arrived in Ecuador to ensure we were established with a doctor should a need for care arise. The best way we have found to get great recommendations regarding care is to join the local Facebook Expat groups in the location you plan to travel and ask away. These groups are always very helpful and provide a wealth of knowledge.
- Research online and look at the numbers; do not only rely on hearsay. Look at the stats related to the hospitals and medical care in the area to which you want to move. Make sure you are getting these numbers from reputable companies and sources.
Overall, we have had an amazing experience with medical care during our three years of WorldTowning. Now that we are WorldTowners On-the-Go, how we receive medical care will change a bit. We will still carry our current medical and evacuation insurance, but we will be using facilities more on the fly. However, when we get to the point of needing annual visits, we plan to reach out to our WorldTowning community for recommendations in local areas.
What are your concerns regarding medical care abroad? What are your experiences? #WThealthcare
We are going to spend all month debunking those medical care outside the United States fears, so we can get you WorldTowning.