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There is affordable health care available right now—just not in the US

Americans began flocking to Lake Chapala, Mexico, more than five decades ago, attracted by great weather, cheap real estate and the quaint cobblestone streets of the town of Ajijic.
Tim Johnson | MCT | Getty Images
Americans began flocking to Lake Chapala, Mexico, more than five decades ago, attracted by great weather, cheap real estate and the quaint cobblestone streets of the town of Ajijic.

As I write this, I'm sitting in a little village on the shores of a broad, mountain-ringed lake on a cool summer morning, reading about how my country's politicians have failed once again to come up with a working national healthcare policy.

Mexico, where I happen to be right now, has a working national healthcare policy. Ecuador, the country I moved here from, has a working national healthcare policy—one that's been recognized by the United Nations for being one of the most innovative on the planet.

In fact, every country I've lived in since moving out of the U.S. 16 years ago has a working national healthcare policy. None of those countries are as large as the U.S., or as rich as the U.S., or as powerful as the U.S. And yet, every one of them has a system for making sure each of their citizens, no matter how rich or poor or old or young or sick or well, gets quality healthcare.

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I didn't move abroad for the affordable healthcare. I moved abroad for the adventure and the weather. I wanted to see how other people in the world lived. I wanted a more relaxed, less stressful lifestyle. I wanted warm weather year-round. And I got all those things…the fact that my life became vastly more affordable living abroad was icing on the cake.

But I also moved abroad to talk to and write about other people who chose to make the same move…especially those who made the move to save their retirements.

And a lot of those folks did move abroad for affordable healthcare, because outside the U.S., almost any place you go has more affordable, accessible healthcare than back home. And if you're retired or living on a fixed income and have some health issues, the affordability and accessibility of healthcare can make all the difference to your quality of life.

"As long as there are more affordable alternatives outside the U.S., retirees will keep seeking them out."

No one I've talked to can figure out why the richest country on the planet has such expensive healthcare. And by many objective measures, it's not even the best healthcare. A recent study by the Commonwealth Fund studied 72 indicators, including cost, access, and treatment outcomes. It ranked the U.S. in 12th place.

Behind Canada. Behind France. Behind Australia and New Zealand.

And, in the opinion of most of the U.S. retirees abroad that I've talked to, behind many countries in Latin America and Asia as well.

As long as there are more affordable alternatives outside the U.S., retirees will keep seeking them out. They'll lead more affordable lives, and their retirement resources will go farther than they could in the U.S., and they'll keep getting quality healthcare in places—like the village of Ajijic, on the shores of Lake Chapala, which I'm in now—where cool breezes come off the lake on summer mornings and the snow and cold of winter are just distant memories.

They'll keep moving to warm, exotic communities around the world for more relaxed, less stressful lives at a fraction of the cost back home.

And they'll continue to get affordable, quality healthcare in the bargain.

Commentary by Dan Prescher, a contributor for International Living based in Mexico. He's previously lived in Ecuador, Panama and Nicaragua.

This article originally appeared on International Living.