Medicare in Mexico

In most situations, Medicare won't pay for healthcare supplied outside the United States. Given the growth of overseas retirement, the government should consider changing that policy.

Mexican flag

In most situations, Medicare won’t pay for healthcare or supplies you get outside the United States. The term “outside the US” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the US, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

More and more Americans are retiring in other countries and they have several options when it comes to getting health insurance. It's time we consider extending Medicare, and possibly Medicaid benefits, to those who are eligible seeking care in Mexico.

This is not a new idea. In fact, 5 years ago, the Rand Corporation studied the issue and made policy recommendations to extend Medicare to US citizens living in Mexico. Given the stress Medicaid is placing on states and recent expansion of Medicaid programs via the Affordable Care Act, outsourcing care for those who voluntarily seek it might be an idea whose time has come.

There are many reasons outlined by the Rand report for extending coverage. In addition to those mentioned, getting care in a Spanish-speaking country has the potential to improve outcomes, lower costs and improve communications.

Unfortunately, while there are many arguments for the policy, the political arguments against the idea seem to be keeping conversation in the shadows. That's a missed opportunity given, the impact Hispanics will make on sick-care. After all, if you hated exported manufacturing jobs to China, you are going to hate sending healthcare jobs to Mexico. Maybe that's something that should be discussed at the presidential debates, but don't count on it.

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