Around 2:30am a few days ago when I was deep asleep, my significant other suddenly shook me awake and asked me to take her to the emergency room.
She told me she was having trouble breathing and her heart was racing, so we immediately hopped in the car and raced to a nearby urgent care clinic.
Fortunately it all turned out fine. But it was my first experience seeing the Puerto Rico medical system up close and personal.
My verdict? Meh.
Frankly it was better than I thought it would be. I had pretty low expectations given the fact that this place has trouble even keeping the lights on most of the time. (But then again, so does California…)
I thought the doctor was professional and knowledgeable (and also trilingual). Plus the facility had a reasonable amount of equipment on hand to be able to perform a battery of tests.
But there were definitely limitations. And a lot of weirdness.
When we arrived, for example, we did the typical triage first. But then we had to go back into the waiting room where the receptionist presented me with a bill. So basically I had to pay before we even saw the doctor. (It was only $100 for the ER visit).
So, overall, it was so-so– decent, yet cheap. But I wouldn’t rank Puerto Rico anywhere near the pantheon of world class medical care destinations. Not by a long shot.
I imagine there are probably a lot of folks right now thinking about medical care given everything that’s happened this year.
And at the same time, countless people are now looking at their options to relocate. Remote work has made it possible for millions of employees to move anywhere they want, as long as they have a good Internet connection.
So if you’re thinking about moving abroad, but want to ensure you’ll still have access to great quality healthcare, I’ll tell you about three places I was thinking about while I was sitting in the waiting room the other night:
Thailand is probably my favorite. The country has some of the best, most efficient hospitals in the world. Every time I’m in Bangkok, I always book a few appointments at Bumrungrad International Hospital, mostly because it’s more like a luxury hotel experience than a hospital.
They have internationally trained physicians in every specialty you can imagine, cancer treatment, dental, cosmetic surgery, sexual reassignment… pretty much everything.
And procedures tend to be far less expensive than in the US.
At Bumrungrad, total knee replacement run about $10,000 USD, compared to an average price of $50,000 in the US.
And bear in mind that Bumrungrad is probably the most expensive hospital in Thailand. There are plenty of other top-notch, internationally accredited hospitals in the country that are much cheaper– like Bangkok Hospital, Sikarin Hospital, etc.
Thai hospitals even offer package deals and specials. Bangkok Hospital, for example, currently offers an all-inclusive childbirth package for about $1,660 USD.
This includes a three day two night stay in the hospital, all meals, medical care, and any medications needed.
(In the US, the average out of pocket cost to give birth WITH insurance is around $5k according to a University of Michigan study. And without insurance, it easily runs over $10,000.)
Malaysia isn’t on a lot of people’s radar, but it also offers exceptional care for very low cost.
For example, you’ll pay less than $20,000 for heart bypass surgery in Malaysia, versus more than $75,000 on average in the US.
Prince Court Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia’s biggest city) has consistently ranked as one of the best hospitals in the world for medical tourism. And, like Thailand, the list of specialties is numerous.
The cost of medication in Malaysia is also incredibly cheap (which is similar in Thailand as well).
Plus access to the newest, cutting edge medicines is quite easy since Singapore (one of the biggest manufacturers of pharmaceuticals in the region) is right next door to Malaysia and just a few hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur.
For people looking for quality, specialty healthcare in a place that’s a lot closer to North America, consider Panama.
Panama is just a few hours plane ride from the US and Canada. It was a strong, stable economy, and its healthcare system is full of US-trained physicians, especially in facilities like Hospital Punta Pacifica, which is affiliated with Johns Hopkins.
Panama’s flexible legislation is also making the country a hot location for medical tourism.
So in addition to typical procedures like child birth or elective surgery (which are often 50% to 75% less than in the US), Panama is also welcoming to alternative treatment options.
For instance, I know a doctor who started a stem cell clinic in Panama which has helped people with everything from age-related mental issues, to sports injuries.
It’s also helpful that Panama is one of the easiest places in the world to gain residency. So anyone thinking about moving there can become a legal resident in no time.
Of course these aren’t the only options for high-quality healthcare destinations. There are plenty of others, especially if you’re looking for specific treatments.
People interested in IVF, for example, may look to India first. And as our Sovereign Woman Viktoria just informed me, Turkey is apparently THE spot for hair restoration.
(Viktorija is currently in Istanbul and will be sending you one of her popular reports from there soon.)
You may have noticed that each of my three suggestions– Thailand, Malaysia, and Panama– just so happen to be in beautiful, tropical destinations.
And that’s sort of the idea: you can find whatever you’re looking for. If you want beachfront paradise with great healthcare, that’s available. If you want great tax benefits, great schools, and close proximity to your home country, that’s available too.
You just have to decide for yourself what’s most important, and recognize that you have the freedom to choose the life that you want.