If you follow the Ventanas Facebook page, you will not be surprised that healthcare trends in the U.S. were a big motivator in my move to Mexico. I frequently post articles on the healthcare crisis hoping to shake still-healthy people out of their complacency.
Actually, given the projections, I am surprised that I wasn’t trampled underfoot at the border by at least a few million of the 76.4 million baby boomers who are beginning to grasp the train wreck ahead and like me are considering taking refuge in Mexico from the U.S.A's most rapacious cartel, the American healthcare system.
For those robust few youngsters who haven’t noticed, the fact is that people in the United States spend substantially more on healthcare than any other developed nation.
And while you would think that being the most expensive would translate into at least the comfort of being the best, the U.S staggers across the finish line in 37th place out of 190 nations ranked by the World Health Organization, behind such great world powers as Morocco, Cyprus and Oman.
Among high-income nations U.S. healthcare ranks last. Life-expectancy, at 78.4 years is lowest among the highest spending nations and is expected to actually go down this year for the first time. Sometimes you don't get what you pay for, to put it politely.
Factoring in inflation, Dan McGrath, co-founder of Jester Financial Technologies, reporting for CNBC in February 2016 gave convincing evidence that a couple 65 years of age will spend $367,000 on insurance premiums alone if living to 87 years old.
The scary thing about his estimate is that the study does not include co-pays and out of pocket costs like deductibles for prescription drugs. Prescription drug costs are a major reason why people in the U.S spend substantially more on healthcare than other developed nations.
A great deal of alarm has been raised these last few years about the skyrocketing cost of drugs and how unlikely it is those concerns will be addressed soon, given that Big Pharma spends more on lobbying ($231 million) than any other industry (That the insurance industry comes in second is no surprise either).
The biggest increases in health care costs overall are in drug prices and if you drill down further the people paying the most are older people (women particularly) for drugs for cancer treatment, MS, diabetes, arthritis and depression. I have looked up the cost of the most common drugs and their prices (I included the $84,000 treatment for Hep 3 in my link just to give you a good laugh).
Combine jaw-dropping drug prices with the fact that most older people take multiple medications and you have the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. even though a majority of those who declare bankruptcy because of medical bills do have health insurance.
Given these prices and the even more expensive drugs in the pipeline, it seems worth the risk of forsaking a healthcare system ranked 37th in quality for one that is ranked 61st (Mexico).
Who knows how much even this mediocre U.S. ranking is due to treatments and accommodations you wouldn’t be able to afford or your insurance wouldn't cover?
How much more expensive are drugs in the U.S? Researching the cost of the 115 commonly prescribed drugs, here are the approximate median monthly costs if you have coupons and purchase them at places like Target, Costco and Walgreen.
Take a special look at the cancer drugs. While outrageous prices are not limited to specialty cancer treatments, an estimated 40% of people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, or one-in-three.
The good news is that cancer is no longer a death sentence, but as many once-deadly diseases are treated as chronic diseases, some treatments could go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Clearly, the time is coming where the quality of care will depend on the size of your portfolio, if it doesn't already. Many people already simply say no to buying medications when they have to choose between meds and food and the mortgage.
These emerging specialty drugs could price out even some with very good insurance. The move toward tier pricing, where the consumer pays more for the most expensive "Tier 4" drugs means patients will increasingly be responsible for more of their costs.
A friend of mine's recent cancer treatment (He's on Medicare) ran $1.3 million. If politicians can't stand up to the cartel and lower the prices of drugs, doctors' fees, hospital stays, medical devices themselves, they have nowhere else to shift the cost other than to patients.
Of course I may die in my sleep at age 90 instead. Even if that happens and all my fears are unfounded, the decision to come to Mexico will have been the right one, having made my demise more likely happen under a beach palapa with a piña colada in my hand rather than a bottle of Cymbalta.
People paying out of pocket for healthcare pay an estimated 75% less for healthcare in Mexico. We will be researching the cost of these drugs and treatments in Mexico in the coming months.
Related Links: Prescription drug prices are rising like no other industry and here are five reasons why, both articles by Money magazine.
A talk with a Mexican health insurance broker on the surprising differences in how insurance policies work in the two countries. Ventanas Mexico
A good general guide to medical care in Mexico for the aspiring expat, by Monica Paxon.
About the Author
Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico, which researches resources and reasons to consider moving to Mexico, along with other insights into expat life.
I am also the author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best free tools on the web. The Guide provides interactive links to high quality language learning sites or their free features that you'd never find in a Google search.
Use the Guide to create fun, varied lessons every day. Spanish will make your life in Mexico a lot more fun and even less expensive.
The Guide is completely interactive, to be used from your laptop, e-reader or tablet (For laptops, I love my slim and lightweight-for-travel Acer Aspire.)
Recently she released "If Only I Had a Place" for aspiring expats seeking to rent in Mexico. The books provides a listing of rental concierges as well as a system to rent luxuriously every year.