Medical Tourism: Nicaragua no Longer a Menacing Headline
In the past 30 years, something of a democracy has developed in Nicaragua since the civil war and the Somoza dictatorship which has what was once Central America’s most infrequent destination appearing in more travel magazines.
Nicaragua, today, is a far-cry from a menacing headline. The nation’s tourism bureau is making other news as both a medical tourism destination and a retirement vestige for baby boomers.
In San Juan del Sur, medical tourism is rife with potential. There are plans for a new kind of hotel that will boast 61 rooms, foreign chefs, ocean-view rooms, a four-star rating, and a whole floor dedicated to medical treatment for guests. Once completed, the medical resort will offer clients a boutique hotel and an extensive range of procedures all under one roof including specialties in elective cosmetic surgery before expanding available treatments in the not-too-distant future.
The planned development is just one aspect of Nicaragua’s growing participation in the global medical tourism industry; in this case, the process of traveling from a highly developed country to a lesser-developed country for more affordable medical treatment. While medical tourism has become increasingly common in more developed neighboring nations, advances in healthcare has Nicaragua ready to give Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama a run for their money.
Boomers Look beyond Borders
The emphasis is good news for more and more fixed-income seniors who are looking for a new place they can call home – one where they can live comfortably, healthily, and relatively cheaply. As the costs of living and healthcare continue to rise, baby boomers are looking beyond U.S. borders.
AARP estimates that a 65-year-old couple in the United States will need $240,000 to cover the cost of deductibles and co-payments, premiums for optional doctor visits and prescription drugs, out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs, and other expenses like hearing aids and eyeglasses.
Nicaragua offers something different. Retirees come for the picturesque landscape, outdoor activities, and safety. But, let’s not forget one important factor – it’s cheap. According to internationalliving.com, people can live on less than $1,000 a month. Monthly costs for two people are about $200 for groceries, $450 in rent, and only $100 for health insurance.
Healthcare is very affordable. Internationalliving.com states that an office visit costs $30, a house call only $35 and lab tests just $10-$15 (depending on the test). A full-day physical including an EKG, x-rays, ultrasound, colonoscopy, gastroscopy, blood work and consultations cost less than $500. A CAT scan costs $300, an x-ray, $17; and a mammogram, $150. However, there are some high-tech procedures that are not available in the country, but expatriates can purchase “MedEvac insurance” for about $250 a year, which ensures an emergency airlift to Houston or Miami if the need arises.
The country hosts a range of hospitals and private clinics, most notably Hospital Bautista and Vivian Pellas Metropolitan Hospital, the only one in the country with Joint Commission International accreditation, in the capital city Managua. Most major procedures are offered only in the capital, but other smaller clinics around the country provide daily care and everyday exams.
Ecuador also offers top care for retirees. U.S. News & World Report found that Ecuador is one of the world’s best places to retire, especially for its high-quality and low-cost healthcare. Health insurance costs less than $60 a month for complete coverage for a 60-year-old male. But, insurance is not even essential because the price of care is so cheap. For example, many hospitals offer special deals for medical tourists and retirees that include standard rates for a set of procedures. One such package offers mammograms for $40, chest x-rays for $35, and an EKG for $25. Moreover, a hospital stay in a semi-public room at Santa Ana Hospital is only $30. Health records belong to the patient, so a retiree can take the documents to any doctor in the country.
Another benefit for retirees is that a clean and safe nursing home in the city of Cuenca costs about $450 per month. That fee includes 24-hour care from doctors
and nurses, food, laundry, personal care, and occupational or rehabilitative therapy.
These are just two countries of the many that are expanding their healthcare systems and making them more accessible and attractive to retirees. By offering affordable, good quality healthcare, these countries offer seniors piece-of-mind so they can enjoy their retirement free from financial strains.