health insurance for 60-plus


Aug 22, 2008
I am a 61-year-old journalist strongly considering relocation to Buenos Aires when I retire next year. My income -- roughly $1800 a month guaranteed-- will be sufficient for a modest standard of living, but I am concerned about my medical care options. The web sites referred to here deal primarily with much younger people. Any information on my options at 62, with a history of cardiovascular problems (heart surgery a year ago) and diabetes, all under control by very costly drugs covered by my current insurance. I would be very, very grateful for any guidance.
Gracias, (currently one of my dozen or so words in Spanish, but I can fix that)
Bill Hutchinson
Bill, your history of heart problems will complicate matters and I doubt that you can conceal it. I have a friend who came here a few years ago at about your age. He was overweight and had a number of medical problems. He concealed the truth from the medical insurance company (one of the best) and was successful in getting coverage for which he is currently paying about $860 pesos a month (not the most expensive plan with his provider, incidentally). He is now about 65 years old. At age 66 his plan will shoot up 60% plus any additional increases due to inflation. Some of the less prestigious plans may be willing to take you. I would keep asking expats. I urge you not to volunteer any information regarding your health situation to health insurance providers until you have all the facts.
My wife got insurance at age 62 here without a problem. However I believe there is a waiting period for pre-existing conditions, six months if memory serves me. Drugs are covered under my plan (you get a 40% discount). We have Swiss Medical but there are other good ones as well. I would rate medical care we recieved as very good in our case. The cost of our medical plan is $150 per person.
I assume you are from the U.S. and I would caution you that the cost of living here is a lot higher than people seem to think, in fact it´s quickly approaching U.S. levels, with inflation around 30% Buenos Aires is no bargin.
With a limited budget and health issues I would consider another country. I spend a year in Italy. It´s more expensive than Argentina but if you lived in a smaller city or town you should be able to get by. Also when I was there 2002 insurance was about $125 a year per person, perscriptions were one euro each. What you would spend extra on living would likely be made up on lower health costs. Also Italy is a lot better place to live than Argentina.
If you are dead set on Latin America check some other countries out. Costa Rica has very good , reasonable health care coverage available. There are several South American countrys I would chose ahead of Argentina as a place to live especially if you are on a limited budget.
Stan, are you 62 years of age? I am astonished that SWISS gave you insurance for $150 dollars a month. That would be cheap for one person but you suggest that it is for both of you. Is that right? I know people under 66 who are paying around 800-900 pesos a month for good plans. As I said to Bill, at age 66 (70 with MEDICUS) the rates jump aprox 60%. I agree that Argentina is no longer cheap and will soon reach US levels (a lot of things are already more expensive). If what you say about health insurance in Italy is true, I'd agree that Italy and some other parts of Europe are better place to retire, especially in smaller cities where costs are lower.
Cristian, you are right, I checked and our coverage for two is 391 dollars or close to $200 each per month.
What I am referring to in Italy is the their national health scheme. Once you get your residency there you qualify. According to the W.H.O. Italy ranks second in the world in health care. I´m not up on the requirements for residency today but I suspect you would qualify on $1,800 a month. I´m not sure what they charge per annum or the health care coverage now but I´ll bet it´s not much more than I quoted.
Thank you so much to all who responded. I certainly would not be able to conceal my pre-existing conditions, and would not want to, so I will be seeking health insurance -- maybe just emergency care insurance -- based on the reality of my situation. I am quite healthy, by the way, heart problems not withstanding. On the matter of cost of living, I have spent many hours poring over classified ads and web postings for apartment rentals, and it seems to me that I should be able to find something appropriate for $600 or so, all inclusive. True? Not true? No doubt I could find something in the states for that, but the wuality of life in Buenos Aires is much more appealing to me. Looks like I'm gonna be (relatively) poor whereever I end up. For many, many reasons, I believe I would prefer to be poor there, or somewhere, than here.
And thanks again.

Bill, I don't think a monthly income of $1,800 dollars is poverty. There are parts of the US where you could live respectably on that amount of money. In Argentina it is a good income (though admittedly current inflation will erode its value). If you live abroad you can always augment your income by teaching English or possibly some other activity.

As regards health insurance, you should be reasonably honest about your health (you could get a letter from your doctor stating that you had heart surgery but that it was successful and that you are in very good health). I don't know if you can evade the issue of diabetes. Some expats may have information on health plans that accept people your age / health. There may be some.

Stan's comments concerning Italy are very interesting. I have a friend who lived some years in Italy. He had experience with Italian state health care. He said it was "acceptable" but I got the clear impression that it was not exactly brilliant. I doubt that it is as good as private care in the better hospitals in BA however it is probably satisfactory for most things and I am sure you could always pay out of pocket for special care. Also when you turn 65 you will qualify for MEDICARE in the US which pays 80%. You could always return to the US if you needed surgery and knew in advance.

I am not sure you can easily find good housing in BA for $600 dollars. Maybe. Are you unable to buy anything? I think, though, if you come here and rent for awhile and look hard you may be able to make contacts and find a decent rent arrangement.

Back to Italy, I am inclined to agree with Stan that life in a smaller city or town in Italy could be more interesting, especially with so much history, culture and far better food at your fingertips (sorry expats but the food in Italy really is a lot fresher and better than here!). Another possibility is Berlin. I have read that rents there are low and the general cost of living is also apparently very reasonable.
Thank you for thoughtful comments.

Thanks to drugs, diet and exercise, my health really is fine, given my age and circumstance, so I''m more concerned with medication costs and emergency services than the cost of the quarterly doc visits I now have just to keep things monitored.

I lived in provincial France for a year some time ago, and learned that I am really much more suited to cities of a million or more.

And yes, certaianly, there should be some way for me to supplement my income -- I am a writer, after all.

I will have some money in savings, so my notion would be to enroll in a spanish immersion program straight away, spend a year, and if things dont work out then I can always return to the states -- or go elsewhere in Suth/Central America with a second language under my belt.

I'm a pretty resourceful sort, a good cook, more inclined toward books than nightclubs, and militantly insist on living somewhere it is not necessary to have a car. I would even be willing to share an apartment to keep my housing expenses to $600.

Am I crazy as well as diabetic?
Getting insurance (qualifying - there is an application) is no problem for the younger ones. You have to sign an oath (last portion of your application) stating that you are in good standing health (no pre-existing conditions) and check "NO" on all the "did you ever have..." questions. Just an emergency visit will let you see a doctor for consultation 100Arg.pesos a little more or less.
No D.N.I needed. Just show your passport. First payment can be made as soon as the first bill comes. Please be advised that just the beginning of this month pre-pagas cost went up between 4% to 24%, and that is just for this year alone and the year's not over yet. :) This is the norm of the increases here since everything and everyone has to catch up with inflation. Last year there was an increase as well. Just make sure you have "buffer" money to cover for the increase which is always effective on the next payment due.
Speaking from experience, it is very difficult to get coverage for a diabetic in Argentina. The cost of covering a diabetic (even if you have your condition under control) is so much money for the plan provider, the insulin is about the same price as in the US. The short and long term acting ones are the same to the dollar, sometimes even more (not sure why). Test strips and all the other needs are expensive here so bring a very good supply.
Swiss Medical rejected a family member renewal application even after 15 years of membership, just because it was starting to get more expensive than it was 15 years ago (duh!), they said. Just like that - no coverage!
Do not discontinue any coverage that you have now, well not until you can get one here that will take you knowing your pre-existing condition. It is best to divulge this outright.
Thanks for the question.