Thousands of Americans Move to Mexico for Affordable Health Care

10/18/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated May 25, 2011

As the United States debates an overhaul of its health care system, thousands of American retirees in Mexico have quietly found a solution of their own, signing up for the health care plan run by the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).

One of the biggest arguments against changing our system in the USA is that our system is so good that foreigners come here to get treatment.

Seems that's only part of the story. In Mexico, they run a program that costs between $90 and $250 a year for "legal foreigners". They have 1,507 clinics and 264 hospitals across Mexico and thousands of Americans are moving there to take advantage of it.

The program has helped people such as Ron and Jemmy Miller of Shawano, Wis. They decided to retire early, but knew affording health care was going to be a problem.

Ron was a self-employed contractor, and Jemmy was a loan officer at a bank. At ages 61 and 52, respectively, they were too young to qualify for Medicare, but too old to risk not having health insurance.

"We knew that we couldn't retire without Medicare," Jemmy Miller said. "We're pretty much in Mexico now because we can't afford health care in the States."

It's a pretty no-frills system. Pre-existing conditions aren't covered for the first two years and the hospitals aren't anything fancy. But at $250 per year, it's a very enticing situation.

This development appears to contradict the argument used in opposition to health care reform that foreigners come to America for treatment because what we have here is so superior.

Bob Story, 75, of St. Louis, had prostate-reduction surgery at an IMSS hospital in Mazatlán and discovered that patients were expected to bring their own pillows. It was a small price to pay, he said, for a surgery that would have cost thousands of dollars back home.

"I would say it's better than any health plan I've had in the States," he said.

This may put the USA Today's other front-page article, For Florida, 'the end of an era' of growth into perspective.