Retirees have a healthy concern for their health care options.
Health is the No. 1 concern for retirees, according to a survey by T. Rowe Price. Indeed, 70% of retirees felt concerned about both their health and the cost of health care heading into retirement, the financial firm found.
For those considering retiring abroad, that’s no less true — and they must contend with the fact that it can be hard to figure out how good the care is in other countries, as there is no perfect ranking of health care. Plus, often the countries that rank the highest on health care according to a variety of measures — including Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and Australia — are very pricey to live in.
So we dove into research on the quality and access to health care world-wide by the peer-reviewed medical journal the Lancet, as well as other reports, to find places where health care is high quality. Then we looked at what it would cost to live there. Here are some places to consider if you want good health care, lots of arts and culture, tasty food and affordable living.
Italy: This country consistently ranks highly on health care measures — the Lancet ranks it 9th in terms of health-care quality and access (the U.S. ranks 29th). The Guardian, which evaluated a number of countries on health care, notes that Italy has a high ratio of doctors to residents and says: “In Italy, the national health service, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, offers universal health coverage that is free or low cost at the point of delivery and covers the vast majority of drugs. It is recognised by independent experts as offering affordable and high quality care, though there are regional differences in the standard of some state-run hospitals, with facilities in northern Italy being considered better than those in the south.”
And perhaps surprisingly, you can live on a modest budget in this country: A handful of sources note that, in general, it’s cheaper to live in Italy than in the U.S. — though of course, this will depend on exactly where you live in the countries. Just how cheap are we talking? It depends on where you live, of course, but it’s possible to get by on $20,000 a year.
Spain: Spain ranks 19th on the Lancet’s list of best health care, is one of the top countries according to the World Health Organization, and the Guardian notes that it has a high number of doctors per residents. Though the Guardian also adds that health care here tends to be best in the bigger cities, which of course have a higher cost of living; but notes that many people travel for care. And health care company Aetna notes that Spain has “excellent” health care.
Spain is less expensive to live in, in general, than the U.S.
MarketWatch talked with a couple who retired in Denia, Spain, on about $2,000 a month and another couple who retired to Granada on $40,000 a year — and love the lifestyle: “Granada has a way of slowing you down [so that] you’re more present in the moment,” Jim Wasserman tells MarketWatch. “Here we walk everywhere, we’re in the moment — the lifestyle means we sit outside, we see people.”
There are other countries you may want to consider too: International Living notes that Costa Rica, Portugal and Malaysia all have high-quality health care; they are also spots where you can live affordably.