When I listed my reasons for considering retirement to India, I mentioned the low cost of health care and long-term care in India. The situation with health care is well-known; India is one of the top destinations for health tourism where elective surgeries and other medical procedures are done at a fraction of the cost in the US or Europe. The low cost of prescription drugs is also another attraction.
The case with long-term care (nursing home care) is not so well known. I came across this article titled Made in India: Low-cost care for ailing parents in the Chicago Tribune that describes the case of an elderly American couple receiving nursing home care in India. Their son took them there after he realized that even the cheapest nursing homes in the US would bankrupt his parents.
The article describes the cost of care in India as follows:
[The total cost is] less than $2,000 a month for food, rent, utilities, medications, phones and 24-hour staffing. The plentiful drugs the couple require cost less than 20 percent of what they do in the US, and salaries for their six-person staff are so cheap that the pair now bank $1,000 a month of their $3,000 Social Security payment.Interestingly, this is in Pondicherry which would probably rate high among desirable retirement destinations in India.
Pondicherry is a former French colony on India's southern coast. The graceful old town, with its coconut palms and orange-blooming flamboyant trees, was foreigner-friendly and on the ocean, with a weather much like Florida's.
If you think that going abroad for nursing home care sounds rather extreme, consider the options available to someone who needs nursing home care in the US.
- You could pay for it out of your own pocket. The average cost of nursing home care in the US is more than $70,000 per year, so this option is feasible only for those with substantial assets.
- Medicaid pays most nursing home costs for people with limited income and assets. To be eligible for Medicaid, you have to first spend down all your savings, including retirement assets. You can forget about leaving anything for your heirs if you take this route. There are also concerns about the quality of Medicaid-funded nursing home care. Nursing home residents on Medicaid tend to be treated as second-class citizens when compared to those who pay for their care.
- The best option, for most middle-income earners, is to buy Long-term care Insurance. The average individual-policy sold in 2006 cost about $2,000 per year, with the average buyer being 59 years old. The premium can be considerably higher depending on age, health status and desired level of benefits.