Election time is near in USA and everyone is talking about job creation, the fiscal cliff and healthcare reform: Politicians fight, Obamacare goes on but regardless of how Washington spins the numbers or how vicious campaigns run, healthcare is a big problem. For both the country and the individual: Medical bills are the number one cause of bankruptcy and USA is the only country in the world in which this happens, politicians on both sides of the fence have come up with little answers.

A few weeks ago I heard a story on the radio about a woman in Arizona that was stung by a scorpion, at the hospital, she was offered anti-venom to relieve her symptoms, she agreed. Weeks later she received a bill for eighty three thousand dollars. I looked up the story online and the anti-venom comes from Mexico were it costs about one hundred dollars per vial, the hospital paid around three thousand for it, the woman was in the hospital for 3 hours. There have been no deaths reported from scorpion stings in more than 3 years and this anti-venom was just FDA approved this summer. This is just a recent example of how medical expenses can go wild in no time at all, what amazes me is that someone can walk in, receive medical care and have no clue of the cost until weeks later upon receiving a bill, it’s like a friend asking would you like a hamburger? and 3 weeks later receiving a bill for five thousand dollars for the hamburger you ate and then having no recourse against the bill other than bankruptcy.

According to the census the median household income for Arizona was $46,789 in 2010. A middle class family works hard every year, if they are responsible they put money away for retirement, maybe earn a pension and Medicare coverage if they have a good job, a really good responsible family who plans ahead and saves every month will put away enough money to retire; unless of course they have some medical emergency, the government changes the rules of what is covered or what is not, their insurance drops them or maybe one gets stung by a scorpion! If that 80K medical bill is to be paid for completely by a family with an income of 46K, how long will it take them to pay it off? 10 years? would that ruin their retirement hopes? their credit? will they have to declare bankruptcy?

I think medical bills are scarier than any spider, snake or scorpion and much more horrifying than all Halloween Ghouls put together!

But is there any alternative? I think there are hundreds of alternatives, retire in just about any other country in the world, my favorite of course being Mexico.

To me the medical costs in USA are incomprehensible, higher than any private hospital in Mexico and apparently by far higher than in any other country!

I think parts of the culprit are lawsuits and the high insurance costs hospitals and doctors have to pay. Excessive paperwork seems to be another, and the feeling that every doctor needs to be wealthy. I am sure the legal and political system needs a major overhaul to make medical care affordable and available for any middle class hard working family, however there is no sign of that happening anytime soon.

Here is what can be done now and is already being done in a small scale. Have you ever heard of anyone coming to Rocky Point to get dental care? Every border town has many more dental offices than the town needs because there is big demand from Americans for the services of the professional and affordable Mexican dentists. Many people also make the trip to Mexico just to obtain their prescriptions at a fraction of the cost.

Why not take it a bit further, if you are retirement age, your chances of needing medical services are much higher. Now, if I am let’s say 70 years old and I have been working hard all my life to save for retirement and to leave something behind for my loved ones after I am gone, the last thing I want to do is get sick for a week and lose every penny I ever made and more, have nothing left for my retirement and any inheritance I intended to give wiped out. Or, worse yet, be on life support to extend my life another month, at the cost of any quality of life and everything I own plus some: I’d rather die! Interestingly enough I will die anyway. This takes me back to my usual Day of the Dead thought, we are all going to die and it really is not so bad, it’s nature. It’s the circle of life, so why spend so much time, money and effort trying to prevent the inevitable? The US is in tremendous debt and financial turmoil, a lot of it is due to huge expenses on medical programs, many of which just extend life a little bit longer.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, when it’s time to go, you will go. Just look at Steve Jobs, there was nothing in the world he couldn’t buy but he couldn’t buy out of the cancer that took his life.

So here is my idea of retirement: Move to any country with decent cheap medical care that will also offer interesting things to do, good food, cultural experiences and all the comforts of modern technology. You can hire 2 private nurses to take care of you in 12 hour shifts cheaper than an extended care facility: according to Genworth financial a nursing home stay in AZ for 2012 in a private room runs around eighty two thousand dollars a year.

If you own a modest house in Mexico your property taxes are minimal, food is cheap, utilities in the central part of Mexico are also cheap since the weather is so temperate and there is hardly ever need for an AC or supplemental heat. Minimum wage throughout the country is about five dollars a day (this is the minimum wage set by the government) so for around 20 a day you can have someone living in your home taking care of your every need, that is under six thousand a year to have a full time caretaker for you alone, no sharing rooms, just living in your own home. This is of course if you ever get to the point where you need assistance. Otherwise, private health insurance in Mexico is a fraction of the cost of the USA. I pay under two thousand a year for a family of 3, no co-pay for accidents, and a maximum out of pocket of two thousand five hundred dollars in the case of a disease, with no limits and it even covers major surgery on top diseases including Cancer to be treated in USA!

Apparently the affordability and quality of healthcare in Mexico is no mystery, there are already tens of thousands of Americans living their golden years in Mexico. Most major cities have good hospitals with the 3 biggest cities: Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara having top-of-the-line medical professionals and facilities, there is even an ‘Amerimed’ Chain of private hospitals in some major touristic cities such as Cancun, Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas dedicated to the American customer which also recognizes the importance of medical tourism and affordability .

As a closing Note: Don’t leave your health in the hands of the doctors. Diet and exercise are of utmost important. They are affordable and controllable ways to keep Nor regain good health and they are entirely in your hands. Good food and a consistent exercise routine will keep you and your body happy for a long time!

So Stay healthy and enjoy the beautiful weather in my favorite month to be in Rocky Point.

See you at the beach!