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Originally published September 20, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 14, 2010 at 12:43 PM

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America's Immigration Dilemma

South-of-the-border retirees could aid the whole region

Here's a proposal that could allow the U.S. to ease its immigration crisis, control health-care costs and rebuild ties with Latin America...

Here's a proposal that could allow the U.S. to ease its immigration crisis, control health-care costs and rebuild ties with Latin America in one stroke: Make it easier for millions of Americans to retire in style and pay lower medical bills south of the border.

More than 100 million Americans will reach retirement age in the next 30 years, and few will be able to afford good housing, top-of-the-line medical services or — much less — personal care. Mexico and other Latin American countries could offer all that and more. Doing so would catapult their economies and reduce illegal immigration.

The upcoming retirements of baby boomers will result in increased demand for retirement housing, nursing and health-care bills for millions.

Walter Russell Mead suggests in his book "Power, Terror, Peace & War" that the U.S. should negotiate agreements with partners in the region to provide favorable deals to U.S. citizens willing to retire south of the border.

Among other things, the United States could offer reimbursement under Medicare for Americans seeking medical care in qualified and licensed health-care facilities in Latin America, he writes.

Since those reimbursements would be much lower than in the United States, the government would save billions of dollars, which could be used to bail out Social Security.

By creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for doctors, nurses, hospital technicians, restaurateurs and construction workers, Latin American economies would receive a big boost. Florida, Arizona and Spain were sleepy economies before millions of retirees turned them into prosperous states or nations.

Some of this is happening. More than 1 million Americans live in Mexico.

With the proper legal framework, this could be expanded to benefit both countries.

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