4 countries with best healthcare in the world

One of the main concerns of any person looking to retire overseas is the quality of healthcare. Is it possible to get medical treatment as good as what’s available in the U.S. and Canada? The answer…a resounding yes. Sometimes it’s even better than what’s on offer at home, and at a more affordable price too.

Measuring the quality of healthcare is difficult, and it’s hard to put a number on it. We can, however, put a number on the price of medical procedures. And these costs (as well as quality) helped us score each of the 24 countries in the healthcare category of International Living’s 2017 Global Retirement Index.

Read on to learn more about the top five countries in the world for healthcare. In each of these countries you’ll find clean, excellent hospitals, highly trained doctors, and very affordable care.

1. Malaysia: Medical tourism is booming
A stronger U.S. dollar, cheaper air travel, mounting healthcare costs in Western countries (and long waiting lists), have all contributed to the Malaysian medical tourism boom in the past decade. Medical tourists arriving in Malaysia have increased on average by 100% in the last five years.

George Town and Kuala Lumpur are the main two medical centers in Malaysia, and both cities are serviced by a multitude of international airlines from around the world.
Malaysia has some of the best-trained doctors in Asia–and the majority of them were trained in the U.S., Australia, or the UK. All of them speak English too, and that takes a lot of the stress away from what is already a stressful situation.
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Western accreditation is also a vital component for confidence in undergoing foreign medical treatments. Numerous hospitals in Penang and Kuala Lumpur are among Southeast Asia’s first recipients of the United States’ prestigious Joint Commission International (JCI) certification. Seen as the gold standard for healthcare service providers around the world, Malaysia has no less than eight JCI-accredited hospitals.

That being said, there are also some very good “not for profit” hospitals here too. One of best is The Lam Wah Ee Hospital in Penang. I’ve had two operations there, and I can’t say enough about their professionalism.
The most popular areas of treatment across the board in Malaysia include cosmetic surgery, dental work, and dermatology. In 2016 Malaysia was visited by more than 1 million medical tourists from around the globe, a figure that is certain to rise in 2017.
Other considerations to take into account are that there is little to no waiting time when you arrive. It’s as simple as registering at the hospital of your choice and then waiting for that particular specialist to see you. You also don’t need to be referred to that particular specialist by a General Practitioner. – Keith Hockton

2. Costa Rica: Low-cost, high-quality healthcare
More than 40,000 Americans travel each year to Costa Rica to seek medical and dental treatment. These “medical tourists” have discovered that this little Central American country has high quality healthcare available at a very low cost.

And expats who live in Costa Rica are able to take advantage of this benefit every day of the year, paying a fraction of what they did back home for doctor’s visits, surgeries, prescriptions, and any other care they need.

There are two medical systems in Costa Rica, with expats allowed to access both.

First is the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, known as Caja for short. This is universal healthcare, provided and managed by the government. It’s available to citizens and legal residents, including foreigners with the pensionado visa, for example.

As part of Caja, you pay a monthly fee based on the income you reported on your residence application, 6% to 12%. This covers the applicant and a dependent spouse, with the average fee running from $75 to $150 per couple.

After you pay your monthly fee, all your care is covered. Doctor’s visits (including specialists), diagnostic testing, prescriptions, surgeries…everything. And there are no exclusions for age or pre-existing conditions. Most expats say the Caja provides good care, although there can be issues with wait times for doctor’s visits and non-emergency procedures. The system has an emphasis on preventative care.

There is also an extensive private medical system in Costa Rica, with doctors, clinics, and hospitals throughout the country. You can pay cash to see private providers, but it’s still cheap. A doctor’s visit is $50; you’ll pay $80 to $100 to see a specialist. An ultrasound will run you about $75. And even major surgeries are cheap, about half to a quarter of the cost in the U.S.

You can also use insurance, either international policies or those provided by Costa Rican companies. Most private hospitals have international patient departments to help you arrange financial matters.

Often expats mix and match private and public medical care. They might see a private doctor and pay cash and then have their prescription filled in the Caja pharmacy for free. Or if a procedure is taking too long to schedule at a public clinic, they might go private.

Something to keep in mind: although there are well-regarded facilities throughout the country, the best hospitals and most specialists in both the public and private system are in San José, Costa Rica’s capital. So if you have a serious medical issue, you will likely have to travel there to seek treatment. – Jason Holland

3. Colombia: Where health is valued
Daniel Garzón Herazo | EyeEm | Getty Images
Healthcare in Colombia is both high quality and affordable. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks Colombia’s healthcare system as number 22 out of the 191 countries they review. That is better than Canada, which ranks number 30, and the U.S., which ranks number 37.

There are many excellent hospitals and clinics located throughout Colombia that provide both general and specialized medical services. Half of the top 43 hospitals in Latin America are in Colombia (22 out of 43). The larger cities of Bogotá, Medellín, and Bucaramanga have hospitals which have received the Joint Commission International accreditation.

While speaking Spanish certainly helps, it will not prevent you from receiving excellent care. Many hospitals in the large and medium-sized cities have either English speaking staff, or a certified translation department.

Any expat not over the age of 60 with a resident cédula (national ID card) can apply for the government health insurance EPS (Entidades Promotoras de Salud). Even if you have pre-existing conditions, you can be accepted into the plan. These conditions may be excluded for a short period of time—six months or so—but then will be covered in full. Retirees pay a premium equal to 12% of their income. Many expats report monthly premiums in the $70 to $85 range for a couple.

Co-pays for the public health plan are based on a three-tiered system with the mid-range price costing about $3. These co-pays apply to laboratory tests, x-rays, and prescription medications.

Private health insurance is an option for people over the age of 60 or as a supplemental plan to your EPS public coverage. Coomeva, for example, offers a private health insurance plan for people up to the age of 85. Premiums will be significantly lower than what a couple would pay in the U.S. Of course they vary depending on the carrier you choose, the level of coverage you want, and your age and health at time of application.

If you decide to pay-as-you-go and not get health insurance, that can be done easily too. Prices for procedures, office visits, and medications are much lower than in the U.S. For example, an hour-long consultation with a specialist costs about $50. – Nancy Kiernan

4. Mexico: High quality healthcare at a fraction of the U.S. cost
Thousands of Americans visit Mexico each year for medical treatment and dental care. It’s no wonder. The care is high quality and the cost is a fraction of what you might pay in the U.S.

The facilities, even in medium-sized cities, are top notch. And physicians have usually received at least some training in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. If not medical school, they receive ongoing training abroad. All the latest technology, techniques, and prescriptions are available in Mexico. And having major surgery or treatment for serious medical conditions is not a problem.

As an expat you’ll also enjoy access to this top medical care, of course. Overall, you can expect to pay about half—or less—of what you would in the U.S. That goes for prescription drugs as well.

As a legal resident, you’ll have access to two systems.

The government-run system operates clinics and hospitals throughout the country and most expats say it offers good basic care at a low price—with costs running to just a few hundred dollars per year.

Many expats also use private healthcare, for which you can pay cash or use insurance. It is much cheaper than the U.S. For example, a visit to the doctor is about $30 to $40. For lab testing, expect to pay about a third of the U.S. cost.

Ghana to promote Medical Tourism

President John Dramani Mahama has inaugurated the phase one of the University of Ghana Medical Center.
Inaugurating the facility, President Mahama revealed that the President-elect Nana Addo has assured him that the Legon Medical Center project will be given maximum priority under his administration.
Inaugurating the first phase of the Center Wednesday, President Mahama said the facility will promote medical tourism in the country.
The Center together with Korle Bu will serve medical students from the University of Ghana.
The medical center is the first of its kind in the sub-region. It has a hotel facility attached to it.
According to President Mahama, with such facilities, Ghanaians will no longer have appetite for seeking medical attention abroad.
The Medical Center is an ultra-modern facility for service delivery, training and research. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for trauma and emergency services with a helipad and internal medicine, including surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, cardiology, heart surgery and medicinal imaging.
Construction of the facility started on March 12, 2011, with a sod-cutting ceremony by the then president Professor John Evans Atta Mills.
In June 2011, Cabinet gave approval for a loan facility from Israel for the design, construction, and installation of medical equipment for the 617-bed Hospital facility for the University of Ghana.
It is expected that phase 1 will have 650 beds and Phase 2 will add 350 beds to increase the total number of beds to 1000.


Japan to promote Medical Tourism

Airline group ANA Holdings is getting into the medical tourism trade, looking to make long-term fliers of affluent Chinese and others seeking quality care in Japan.

Travel subsidiary ANA Sales will begin offering packages, including airfare and hotel stays, for Chinese travelers as early as this month as an initial step. The first tours could begin in late March. ANA will partner with Kameda Medical Center in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo, which will offer comprehensive health checkups as part of the deal.

A sample itinerary of a three-day stay includes car service to the Beijing international airport, a business-class flight on All Nippon Airways to Tokyo’s Haneda, and transportation to a hotel near the hospital on day 1. A comprehensive checkup consisting of blood tests, gastrointestinal endoscopy and other procedures will take place from day 2 to the early afternoon of day 3. Customers may request an MRI brain scan and CT lung scan as add-ons. Then the traveler would take an evening flight from Narita Airport, arrive in Beijing and get a ride home. Optional Tokyo sightseeing will be available as well. Package prices will start at 50,800 yuan ($7,325).

Kameda Medical Center began offering checkups for Chinese customers in significant numbers in 2010, and now serves around 200 such visitors a year. ANA Sales has secured monthly slots for physicals to ensure availability.

Marketing of the packages will be delegated to travel agencies in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Qingdao, among other places. ANA aims to serve 50 individuals in the first year of business.

Japan issued 946 visas for medical stays in 2015, up about 50% from a year earlier, according to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Foreigners entering Japan on short-term stay visas can also receive health care, so the real tally of people coming for medical services is probably greater. The ANA packages will work with short-term stay visas.

More than 80% of medical-treatment visa recipients are Chinese, and almost 10% are Russians.

Demand for health care is on the rise in emerging markets, but they lack ample high-quality medical facilities. With medical tourism in advanced countries seen picking up, ANA decided to tap this potential in Japan.

ANA operates flights to and from 11 Chinese cities, including the Narita-Wuhan service launched last April. But it has struggled to fill seats on some routes amid competition from Chinese budget airlines.

The Japanese airline hopes to make steady customers of wealthy Chinese medical tourists by letting them savor its on-board service and airport lounge experience.

Iran to promote Medical Tourism

In spite of all the challenges facing Iran’s travel sector, medical tourism has been one of the most profitable and stable branches, thanks to the quality medical services that draws health tourists from regional countries, according to an official at Iran’s Medical Council.

“Nevertheless, the potentials of the sector have not been fully exploited due to lack of coordination between relevant organizations,” said Mohammad Jahangiri, the council’s deputy for supervision and planning, YJC reported.

To organize the country’s health tourism sector, a strategic council was formed last year comprising representatives of the health and foreign ministries, the Medical Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization

The Health Tourism Strategic Council has been able to instill discipline in the sector by regulating the institutions operating in this field.

“Hospitals or clinics that offer medical services to foreigners and travel agencies that attract and organize tours for health tourists must now receive official authorization from the strategic councils,” Jahangiri said. “They need to obtain permits from ICHHTO, the Health Ministry and Foreign Ministry.”

About 98 hospitals and 14 travel companies have so far been issued health tourism permits across the country.

He said Iran’s Tourism Development Association has also been formed by the council to help attract investment and garner support of related government entities.

The association is also responsible for promoting authorized centers and introducing them to both Iranians and foreigners.

The official said it will soon introduce health tourism service providers through a comprehensive online portal.

Jahangiri said health travel packages are being prepared in cooperation with tour operators.

The council is also envisioning educational programs for institutions keen to work in the sector.

In the health tourism scheme, priority is given to border regions due to their accessibility to neighboring countries.

“But other regions that have the potential for health tourism cannot be ignored and must be given due attention,” he said.

Iran’s annual revenue from medical tourism is between $400-500 million, which is expected to reach $2.5 billion in the foreseeable future.

According to a report earlier this year by Big Market Research, the global medical tourism market is expected to reach $143 billion by 2022.

It was reported in May that the number of tourists traveling to Iran for advanced medical services has grown by 40% in the past five years.

Tourism to Guatemala grew this year

Tourism to Guatemala for medical, health and wellbeing services brought in over US$66 million last year, and the sector is growing quickly.

This year income from these specialized health services is expected to register 12.4 percent higher than last year’s sales, said the Guatemalan Export Associaction (Agexport) to Central America’s Summa business magazine.

Experts estimate that tourists seeking medical care can spend up to US$15,000 per trip on dental, ophthalmological, dermatology, and other specialty services.

Guillermo Contreras, president of Agexport’s health and welfare commission said Guatemala has been developing new medical centers and strengthening hospital services to provide services to Americans and Canadians, the main foreigners seeking medical care abroad, and that prices for many medical procedures and treatments are 90 percent less expensive than in other countries, reported Summa this week.

In 2017, Contreras said his commission would actively participate in international trade fairs on health and wellbeing tourism in the United States, Italy and Mexico, and “will continue to support our associates to provide them with the best marketing tools and commercial platforms to develop in the international market.”

This year the commission sought out international accreditations by Acreditas Global and Grupo Dent to implement quality standards for service, and participated in the Medical Travel and Global Healthcare Business Summit in Los Angeles, USA and the 7th Medical Tourism Congress in Tijuana, Mexico.

Contreras is working with partner health care providers to recruit patients through joint corporate marketing plans with insurance and self-insurance companies and representatives in the United States, reported Summa.

Chinese traveled more this year for Medical Tourism

According to a report released by China’s leading online travel marketplace, Ctrip, the Chinese medical tourism market grew by a staggering 500 percent to reach a total of 500,000 outbound medical trips in 2016. According to the report, medical tourism ranked as the fourth most interesting area of travel among Chinese tourists, and was the market segment with the highest level of growth this year.

For Chinese tourist destinations, it poses a potentially very lucrative market to target, with Ctrip reporting that the average Chinese medical tourist spending 50,000 Chinese yuan (US$7,194) on their trips. In comparison, Chinese travelers spend 26,000 yuan (US$3,741) on average during trips to Europe, and only about 18,000 yuan (US$2,590) for trips within Asia. In fact, the only type of trip with a higher reported average level of spending was polar tourism, with all other types of tourism amounting to a lower average expenditure per trip on Ctrip’s platform.

Citing its internal data, Ctrip reports that regular health checks made up the lion’s share of Chinese medical tourism in 2016, representing over 50 percent of all medical tourism trips for tourists originating in China. Higher-revenue medical tourism products that cater to more affluent Chinese tourists were also in vogue, with plastic surgery in South Korea one of the top medical tourism products on Ctrip in 2016. More advanced health checks, such as gene tests in the United States, were also popular in the higher-end of the market.

According to the Hurun Report, healthcare ranked the foremost topic of interest among Chinese high-net-worth individuals, with 50 percent of respondents citing healthcare as a topic of interest. This puts healthcare well and beyond both shopping and tourism in general among China’s wealthy, further underlining the importance of the Chinese healthcare market.

Among Ctrip’s customers, Japan was the most popular medical tourism destination in 2016, followed by South Korea, the United States, Taiwan, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, Switzerland, Thailand, and India. Japan, an early mover in medical tourism, saw its government include medical tourism in its official growth strategy already back in 2010, and was one of the first destinations to introduce a specific visa for medical stays in 2011. Since then, Chinese tourists have come to dominate medical tourism in Japan, and the Japan National Tourism Administration has even issued a Chinese-language guide on how to enjoy healthcare services in Japan.

The biggest source markets in China for Ctrip’s outbound medical tourists were the first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen, together with the second-tier cities of Tianjin and Hangzhou—likely a reflection of the average level of affluence among these cities’ residents.

With concerns about the quality of healthcare steadfast, especially among the more affluent, as well as a growing number of medical tourism products catering to Chinese travelers around the world, there seem to be few reasons to believe that Chinese medical tourism won’t have another great year in 2017.

Demonetisation did not affect Tourism Business

8.91 lakh foreign tourists visited India in November this year, a growth of 9.3 per cent over the same month last year, indicating that demonetisation move did not impact the tourists footfall adversely.
Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) during November 2015 was 8.16 lakh, while it was 7.65 lakh in November 2014.
Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) from tourism during the month of November were Rs 14,474 crore as compared to Rs 12,649 crore in the same month last year, recording a growth of 14.4 per cent.
The US accounted for highest share of tourist arrivals followed by the UK and Bangladesh in November 2016, according to an official release.
FTAs during January-November, 2016 were 78.53 lakh, recording a growth of 10.4 per cent as compared to 71.14 lakh during the corresponding period last year.
FEEs from tourism in January-November were Rs 1,38,845 crore, witnessing an increase of 14.7 per cent as compared to the Rs 1,21,041 crore during the corresponding period last year.
Among the top 15 source countries in November, share of the US was highest with 15.53 per cent, followed by the UK (11.21 per cent), Bangladesh (10.72 per cent), Canada (4.66 per cent), Russia (4.53 per cent), Australia (4.04 per cent) and Malaysia (3.65 per cent).
The share of Germany was 3.53 per cent, while that of China 3.14 per cent, France 2.88 per cent, Sri Lanka 2.49 per cent, Japan 2.49 per cent, Singapore 2.16 per cent, Nepal 1.46 per cent and Thailand 1.37 per cent.
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