Mexico hopes to attract U.S. retirees

April 20, 2010


— Mexico is silently working on proposals aimed at drawing millions of U.S. retirees to this country, which could eventually lead to the most ambitious U.S.-Mexican project since the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

President Felipe Calderon is likely to propose the first steps toward expanding U.S. retirement benefits and medical tourism to Mexico when he goes to Washington on an official visit May 19, according to well-placed officials here. If not then, he will raise the issue later this year, they say.

“It’s one of the pillars of our plans to trigger economic and social well-being in both countries,” Mexico’s ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan told me. “We will be seeking to increasingly discuss this issue in coming months and years.”

Calderon brought it up during a U.S.-Canada-Mexico summit in Guadalajara in August last year, but President Barack Obama asked him to shelve the idea until he was able to pass health care reform, another official told me.

Now that Congress has passed health care reform, Calderon is preparing to charge ahead.

There are already an estimated 1 million Americans living in Mexico. And according to Mexican government estimates based on U.S. Census figures, that number is likely to soar to 5 million by 2025 as the U.S. population grows older and more Americans look for sunny, cheaper places to retire.

The U.S. Census projects that the number of U.S. retirees will soar from 40 million now to nearly 90 million by 2050. Already, 5 million American retirees live abroad, of whom 2.2 million are in the Western Hemisphere — mostly in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Brazil. An additional 1.5 million live in Europe and 850,000 in Asia.

The key to luring more U.S. medical tourists and retirees to Mexico and other Latin American countries will be getting hospitals in the region to be certified by the U.S. Joint International Commission, which establishes that they meet U.S. hospitals’ standards. There are already eight Mexican hospitals certified by the JIC and several others awaiting certification.

According to Mexican government estimates, health care costs in Mexico are about 70 percent lower than in the United States. And from my own experience, those estimates are right: As I reported at the time, when I was hospitalized in Mexico two years ago for an emergency operation, my hospital bill was indeed about 70 percent lower than what it would have been in Miami.

So what will Calderon specifically propose to Obama? Most likely, the Mexican president will suggest starting with a low-profile agreement that would allow the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration to pay for Medicare benefits to U.S. retirees in Mexico. Under current rules, Medicare only covers health care services in the United States.

My opinion: Mexico and much of Latin America are bound to become growing U.S. retirement and medical tourism destinations, much like Spain has become a permanent living place for Germans, Britons and Northern Europeans.

You won’t read much about it now because neither Calderon nor Obama will emphasize it publicly while the drug-related violence in northern Mexico is making big headlines, and while the political wounds from the recent U.S. health care debate are still open in Washington.

But I’m increasingly convinced that, as the violence in Mexico subsides and the health care debate becomes a distant memory in Washington, medical benefits’ deals will become a top U.S.-Latin American priority. Just as free-trade agreements were the big thing of the 1990s, health care agreements will be the big deal of the coming decade.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Calderon and Obama take the first baby steps toward a U.S.-Mexico health care agreement by finding a way to pay for Medicare benefits for U.S. expatriates in Mexico, or getting U.S. states to allow similar payments. Then, most likely after the 2012 presidential election in both countries, the two would start negotiating a more ambitious deal.

Demography, geography and economics are pointing in that direction. With the U.S. population getting older, a record U.S. budget deficit, rising U.S. health care costs, and Mexico and other Latin American countries badly needing more tourism and investments, this should be a win-win for everybody.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com


Keith 8 years, 1 month ago

Merrill can't be here today, so BP will handle the cut and paste duties.

oldvet 8 years, 1 month ago

Thanks, Keith... I was thinking the same thing until I came to your post... made me LOL...

cowboy 8 years, 1 month ago

Barry & Merrill in a mexican forum posting match. Masked and in tights flying from the top rope slamming their keyboards and executing the killer cut and paste move.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 1 month ago

You've never had a post that warranted posting to begin with, Tom.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Check the news from south of the border for a week on http://www.chron.com/ and then ask yourself, "do I want to be there?"

somedude20 8 years, 1 month ago

I will trade all of the old people to Mexico in exchange for Salma Hayek (if you call in the next 10 minutes, I will throw in a free Barry Penders)

countrymanwillsurvive 8 years, 1 month ago

How convenient for obama to "Farm Out' the oldies to cheaper health care while illegals sneak across to get quality care for free. Once the retirees get down there and need quality care can they sneak back across with the illegals and go to the American hospitals? Like they say, watch what obama says then watch what he does. Scarier is what he doesn't let us know what he is doing. Who said he cared for the American people. He may if you are under 60.

whats_going_on 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't know a lot about what is going on in Mexico, but I hear its a lot of drug violence right now. Why the heck would anyone, especially old people, who want beauty and quiet, want to be there? I'm confused. Is there a nicer, less ghetto Mexico that I don't know about?

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

I'd retire to Mexico in a heartbeat, but I'm under the impression this has always been frowned upon by the Mexican government.

FrancescaPFurbottom 8 years, 1 month ago

HAHAHAHAHA. If you prefer to experience your retirement peering terrified out the peephole of the trunk of a car whilst being taken deep into the desert, I'm sure it's great.

Richard Payton 8 years, 1 month ago

Let the people that want legalization of pot move to Mexico they can get it from the cartel!

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

If you want to live under the only government in North America more corrupt than the city of Chicago, by all means move to Mexico,

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

Punctuation is a tool of the capitalist running dogs. I'm shocked at your attachment to their tools, libby.

riverdrifter 8 years, 1 month ago

I know several people who retired and moved here, and they all love it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Miguel_de_Allende

Liberty275 8 years, 1 month ago

There is a connection. The Mexican people are poor, that's why they come here. Conversely, if you have $100,000 in the bank and you move there you are basically a king with all the trimmings for life. In America you would just be another old geezer playing golf once a week and worrying about what you will do if you live more than 4 years.

independant1 8 years, 1 month ago

I know people who retired and moved to Mexico. They lived well but not long (it's a trade off). Ah the EMT response/emergency rooms/life flight/volunteer fire rescue in wide open USA. Observed the aftermath of a ped/bus accident in Oaxaca once late last century, the victim lay in the city street. Nobody approached the ped/man laying in street. Asked my close friends why nobody was doing anything. His reply, "Why, he going to die, no?"

Lots of US retirees used to shop for Rx, coffee, sugar, beef, booze, cheap dental work, etc in border towns but (I'm sure there are links above that cite this) not so prevalent now.

If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out? (Will Rogers, 9/32 Cherokee 23/32 other)

Flap Doodle 8 years, 1 month ago

In other news from Mexico: "MEXICO CITY — Dozens of gunmen burst into a Holiday Inn and another hotel in the northern industrial city of Monterrey on Wednesday and abducted at least six people, prosecutors said. Nuevo Leon state attorney general Alejandro Garza y Garza said that between 20 and 30 gunmen abducted four guests and a receptionist from the Holiday Inn. The assailants searched at least seven rooms before going to the nearby Hotel Mision where they abducted a receptionist, he said. Garza y Garza said the gunmen had with them a handcuffed man who had apparently led them to the Holiday Inn. Those abducted included three male guests who registered at the Holiday Inn as being from Mexico City and a woman who said she was from the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. Organized crime was likely behind the attacks, the state attorney general said. The gunmen appeared to be looking for specific targets. "A lot of what we're going through right now is part of a readjustment among cartels," Garza y Garza told a news conference in Monterrey. Still, it was not clear exactly what motivated the abductions or who the victims were..." http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/top/all/6969657.html

Brent Garner 8 years, 1 month ago

Why move to Mexico at all? Just be patient. The Great Usurper and his chronies will soon have us all living at the "Mexican" standard of living. Just be patient. It will come!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.