In International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index 2015, healthcare is one of the eight categories taken into account to find the best retirement havens in the world. It's a tricky subject as so much depends on your personal situation and healthcare needs. But access to affordable, high-quality healthcare is important. So in this category, InternationalLiving.com correspondents were asked to provide costs for a range of common surgical procedures, as well as the cost of a doctor's appointment. Crucially, they assessed the overall quality of both the public and private health-care systems in their countries and they quizzed fellow expats on their healthcare experiences to get a clear picture of the level of care available.
Below are the five countries which received the top scores in the healthcare category of this year's index.
Coming in first place in the healthcare category of International Living's Annual Global Retirement Index, Malaysia offers excellent, low-cost healthcare, and some of the best-trained surgeons, dentists and specialists in the world. Medical expertise here is comparable and sometimes better than in most Western countries.
2. Costa Rica
As well as offering a high-quality, government-run universal healthcare system for citizens and legal residents, medical care from private providers is also available in Costa Rica. It's high quality, with all the latest equipment and techniques being used. Many medical tourists from the U.S. come to Costa Rica for procedures not covered by insurance in the U.S. or those for which they would pay a lot out of pocket back home, including cosmetic surgery, knee replacements, and more.
In Uruguay, you'll find private health insurance plans similar to those available in North America. You'll also have the option of Uruguay's public healthcare system, which assures all legal residents have access to medical care when they need it. But in addition, Uruguay has a third option, which is more popular than either private health insurance or the public healthcare system. It's a private hospital plan, often called a mutualista. With a mutualista, you apply to become a member of a private hospital's plan.
Thailand has a great reputation for affordable and easily accessible healthcare. It continues to be rated highly by expats scattered throughout the country. Many say that the facilities are on a par with, and sometimes better than, what is available in their home countries. Many Thai healthcare professionals in the larger city centers speak English, and even in the more rural areas, it is possible to find doctors who speak some English.
Panama's shining skyline can be a shock for first-time visitors. Especially if they expect something a little more Third World. The same can be said of the nation's hospitals, which surprise many expats, with a high level of personalized care and modern equipment. The best known is the technologically advanced Punta Pacifica Hospital, which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins International. Many of the doctors speak excellent English, having trained in the U.S. or Canada.