Health Care in Ecuador Makes Sense
We all have that fear. Maybe you feel a sharp pain in your stomach, an ache in your muscles, or a lump under your skin. Your mind spins as your fingers frantically research online: WebMD, Mayo Clinic. Sometimes, we don’t have time to research. We just have to go to the hospital and hope for the best. In the United States, the price of health care can contribute to that fear. How much will this cost? What will my insurance cover? Do I have to stay overnight? When something happens to our bodies, we are emotionally and physically drained. One of the most amazing things about living in Ecuador is the affordable cost and the high quality of its health care system. If something should happen to you while living down here, there are many safe, inexpensive, and well-equipped facilities to visit, as well as many qualified doctors and technicians.
History of Health Care in Ecuador
Since Rafael Correa’s presidency began in 2007, the quality of health care has improved dramatically in the country. Annual funding for health care has more than doubled in the past few years, and the country has soared towards the top of South American countries in health care quality. A Bloomberg survey in 2014 ranked countries around the world in terms of health care cost and efficiency. Ecuador ranked 20th. The United States ranked 46th. Ecuador’s government has purchased new equipment and built new facilities. You can expect excellent care in cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, but also in many smaller cities as well. There are some doctors who do only speak Spanish in Ecuador, but many speak English as well. In fact, many of the doctors studied in Europe, Canada or the United States. All of these factors contribute to an environment where you pay less and are treated well.
Costs of Health Care
Costs for health care in Ecuador average about 10-30% the cost of American procedures. Listen to this story and imagine how it would have played out in the United States. A friend recently had to spend two nights in the hospital. He had blood tests, worked with a cardiologist, received a hernia operation, and had his appendix removed in the process. All costs, without any insurance, were $2,200. Compare that to the United States. Just the cost of a hernia operation, without insurance, ranges from $4,200-$6,200. Adding two overnight stays, blood work, consultations, and an emergency appendix removal could skyrocket the cost into the tens of thousands. In Ecuador, if you get sick or fall or your body breaks down, you can heal and recover without fearing the financial repercussions.
When looking for a general doctor visit, appointments can usually be scheduled the same day, or within a day or two. Visiting a general practitioner in Ecuador usually costs between $25 and $35, and specialist visits typically cost between $35-$50. Alternative remedies are also available, like Reiki or homeopathy. Homeopathic doctors can cost up to $50, but that includes consultation and the remedies. Nearly all other health care factors are inexpensive as well: ambulatory costs, hospital stays, lab work, and basic procedures. For example, removing a lump under local anesthesia and getting a biopsy costs around $100. A basic intestinal test for parasites or amoebas, along with lab work and antibiotics, costs around $15. If something happens to cause you fear, you can quickly make an appointment, set up tests, and receive medications promptly.
Public vs. Private
There are two major insurance options: Social Security, also known as IESS, or private providers. There is also public health care, open to those without insurance. The Constitution of Ecuador mandates that no one be denied medical care. Many people also choose to save and “self-insure,” meaning they just put away a small amount of money each month in case something should happen. Because of the low costs, this can be a very feasible method to prepare for medical emergencies.
Thousands of foreign residents who opt for the IESS option, as of 2015, pay $73.47 per month with a dependent or spouse paying $12.62 extra. This cost is extremely livable. Sometimes, there are difficulties with this bureaucratic system, and it can be a little challenging maneuvering the paperwork if you don’t speak Spanish. But overall, this is an excellent option for anyone, Spanish or English-speaking, who wants basic, inexpensive coverage.
Private health care options vary in cost. With the IESS system gaining more popularity, many once private specialists are now also working in the public sphere. The most expensive options for private care are in Guayaquil and Quito, with options in Cuenca being slightly cheaper. Coastal private clinics and physicians are even less expensive than in Guayaquil, Quito, or Cuenca, but they maintain the same promise of quality and service.
Wrap it up…in a cast
When considering relocating to any country, one of the most important factors to consider is health care. Hopefully this article has painted an introductory picture of what to expect, insurance options to consider, and the quality of facilities and doctors. The Bloomberg survey mentioned earlier also ranked Ecuador very high in terms how the country spends its money on health care: $332 per capita for health care. In comparison, the United States spends $8,608 per capita for health care. Ecuador has found ways to support patients with high quality of service, a variety of options, and inexpensive options. If you’re interested in moving someplace where you can focus on living, rather than paying back a stream of health-related bills, Ecuador is one of the best options. You’ll have more time and money to do the things you love while feeling energized to explore this breathtaking country.