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Dying Early & Broke Because You're American

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Healthcare in Early Retirement? The question seemingly has no easy answer as an American. When we discuss healthcare in retirement, and our short-term plans to utilize medical tourism, and moving abroad to capitalize on Mrs. RRR’s access to practically free healthcare with her EU citizenship we are usually met with squints, sighs, and other skeptical sayings and body language. For some reason, despite clear evidence to the contrary, Americans as a whole feel like healthcare everywhere else is somehow poorer quality and less than what’s available in America. Well, I hope you’re sitting down because we are about to blow your damn minds.

“You get what you pay for.”- someone who over-pays for everything.

It’s safe to say that this saying doesn’t apply to healthcare in the United States. According to a study that compared the healthcare systems of 11 countries published by The Atlantic, the U.S. was dead last in overall ranking, cost, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives. And this is despite spending more than double the average on health expenditures per capita.
We spent 66% more than the next highest country, Norway, which is a supposedly notoriously expensive country. So, even though we are spending the most, we aren’t receiving even close to the best care. Overall, the U.S. ranks 50th in life expectancy, so it stands to reason that there are at least 49 other countries that have decent enough healthcare to keep people alive longer than us. Even crazier is that life expectancy varies pretty widely by state. If you just look at Mississippi, it’s ranked 95th in life expectancy. Malaysia, Armenia, Sri Lanka, Iran, and Mexico are just a few of the 94 countries that surpass Mississippi in life expectancy.
Want to hear another mind boggling stat? More than 25% of doctors practicing in the United States have medical degrees from foreign countries. Oh, you read that right. 1/4 of MD’s practicing here didn’t get their degree in the land of the free! Well, I guess that ruins the “doctors from other countries aren’t as well trained, or educated as ones in America” argument. Hell, depending on how many doctors you have, there’s a good chance you might have seen a doctor that wasn’t trained here and didn’t even know it. But, how did you survive such poor care?
Universal healthcare is potentially the biggest controversy and debate amongst people discussing insurance and healthcare coverage these days. Which is unfortunate because we should be focusing on the outrageous profits that every aspect of the health industry seem to be raking in. But, opponents of universal healthcare might be surprised to hear that nearly 2/3 of healthcare spending is already paid for by the government through Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA. ….MAGA?
That’s right, only 1/3 of spending is made up from BCBS, Aetna, UHC, Cigna, Humana, and the thousands of other companies out there. All told, in 2016 there were 5,977 insurance companies, each with their own administrative departments, case managers, claims adjustors, marketers, mail clerks, janitors, and dozens more employees which all add costs to your monthly premiums and deductibles. A study by the Harvard Medical School determined that 31% of healthcare dollars in the U.S. went to administrative costs, nearly double what our weird talking neighbors to the north Canadians spend with their communist “socialized healthcare”. The number of health insurance home-office employees has doubled since 1994. It’s no wonder we spend more than everyone else, someone has to pay Josh’s salary to hide in the bathroom all day, and for Sarah and Megan to gossip about office drama.
Speaking of spending, 896,000 families declared bankruptcy from 2006-2017 due to medical costs. Nearly 70% of those families were insured, so don’t think that having s6hdwntp7a701health insurance will save you from having astronomical costs when it comes to healthcare, not that the monthly premiums aren’t already incredibly expensive. There are huge discrepancies with insurance coverage, including: whether your provider is in network, what your deductible and out of pocket expenses are, and whether the procedure, treatment, or prescription is even covered. Unfortunately, insurance is not a catch-all safe guard that leaves people free from the clutches of the inflated system. If anything, it has caused the inflated system that we all must suffer in.
It’s sad to say this, but placing all your faith in the American healthcare system will leave you dead and broke earlier than you plan.
You can take control of your health by eating right and exercising to limit the liklihood of health issues. You can read more about these actions below.


  • steveark

    I wouldn’t argue against much of what you’ve said but blaming Mississippi’s health picture on their health care system isn’t something I’d agree with. Mississippi has a host of life shortening demographic factors. Obesity, low education, poverty, addiction, teen pregnancy, single parents, unemployment all may have vastly more impact on health than the quality of medical care and Mississippi constantly ranks near last in all these categories. Most of the reasons those other countries out rank the US have nothing to do with our health care system but have everything to do with Americans habits of over eating, over drinking and not getting enough exercise.

    • James Lowery

      Thanks for the feedback, Steve! We completely agree with you that there is a whole slew of reasons why the life expectancy is so short here in the Deep South. We aren’t trying to argue that, so much as we are pointing out the irony of criticising the thought of moving to another country based on health when statistically they live longer than we do.

  • Susan Callahan

    I spend a good part of my life in Europe and I agree with your central point that many Americans are not aware of how good healthcare can be outside the US. But the reasons for our unimpressive longevity can be traced to our Western diet and sedentary lifestyles, not to our health care system. European walk more than we do, they eat more vegetables, at least they do in Western Europe. But don’t oversell the health systems outside the US. The US system is preferred by those who are wealthy. Foreign celebrities seek care in the US when their lives are at stake. A most recent example is Mick Jagger who chose to have his heart operation in the US when he of course could have received care free care in the UK through the NHS (National Health Service). Other examples include Johnny Holiday, France’s Elvis and many foreign leaders as well. There is a reason, after all, that the US has produced far and away the overwhelming number of Nobel Prize winners in medicine. Our country leads the world in medical innovation.

    • James

      We appreciate the feedback, Susan! We agree that the lifestyles are the biggest factor when it comes to life expectancy. Unfortunately, all those dollars spent on research and medical care can’t undo a lifetime of bad decisions and make us live longer. This article isn’t meant to make US care seem less than, just to shed light on the thought by most Americans that if you move abroad you’re going to die earlier because they think you’re receiving substandard care.

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