Excellent Healthcare in Ecuador at a Fraction of U.S. Prices

One of the great perks for foreign residents living in Ecuador is high-quality, low-cost healthcare. Bloomberg recently rated Ecuador as having the 20th most efficient healthcare system among advanced economies, while the U.S. ranked near the bottom in 46th place.

An internet comparison of healthcare costs from around the world found that Ecuador’s costs are the lowest—lower than those in China, Malaysia, India, Mexico, and Panama. In general, you can expect to pay 10% to 25% of what you would in the U.S. For major surgery, we’ve seen a number of cases in which costs were even less than 10% of comparable procedures in the U.S. You will find similar savings for dental care.

Although Ecuador is a developing country, you will find first-rate medical care here, particularly in the major cities. Many doctors are educated in the U.S., Europe, Argentina, Chile, and Cuba and continue to train around the world. In many respects, the medical system is reminiscent of that in the U.S. in the 1950s or 1960s. House calls are still possible, most doctors do not have nurses, and the average office visit is 30 to 45 minutes. Another throwback is that Ecuadorian doctors don’t expect to become instant millionaires, and the average income for doctors, according a Quito medical association, is about $65,000 a year.

A visit to a general practitioner costs $25 to $35, while a visit to a specialist runs anywhere from $30 to $80. For follow-up visits there is usually no charge at all. A psychiatrist will charge $30 to $50 for a half-hour session. Simple, ambulatory procedures are equally inexpensive. For example, the removal of a small lump (under local anesthesia) and a biopsy cost about $125. Brand name medicines usually cost less than in the U.S. Generics, which are widely available, are also much cheaper.

Health Insurance in Ecuador

In 2017, Ecuador passed new laws making some type of health insurance mandatory for all citizens under 65 years of age, and all residents under 65 who had their visas registered after February 6, 2017. However, laws were also passed making it illegal for private insurance companies to exclude clients based on age, sex, or pre-existing conditions.

Health insurance remains a bargain in Ecuador. A review of comparable insurance policies for a 60-year-old man in the U.S. and Ecuador tells the story. In the U.S., the man would pay a monthly premium of $1,200; in Ecuador, he may pay as little as $70. A woman age 50 to 60 would pay $72 for the same policy in Ecuador, while coverage for a dependent child, between two and 17 years of age, costs $15.69 a month.

The policy cited is offered by Salud S.A. (website: http://www.saludsa.com), Latin America’s largest health insurance company, and pays 80% of doctor’s visits, 60% of medication costs, and 100% of hospitalizations. It also offers extra coverage for walk-in procedures and accidents.

Although international health insurance is available from several local companies, costs can be considerably higher than Ecuadorian policies. Keep in mind that international policies must cover such high-priced countries as the U.S.

The Social Security Healthcare Option

Ecuador has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its national social security healthcare system (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Seguridad Social, or IESS) and as of January 2014 allowed foreign residents of any age a “buy-in” option. Following a change in 2017, expats now must provide proof of income in order for the rate of their IESS insurance to be set. If your visa was based on your pension, that figure will be used. For other types of visas, you will need to provide documentation to verify your income.

The rates for IESS coverage are based on the income claimed. The primary enrollee (and it can be either spouse) will pay a monthly fee equal to 17.6% of their income. A spouse and other family members may be added for an additional 3.41% per month. So if you have a pensioner’s visa for the minimum amount ($800 + $100 for dependents), your monthly fee as a couple would be $168.08. Keep in mind you don’t need to disclose all of your income, just what you are claiming to participate.

This is still a bargain, as the public healthcare system covers in-hospital care, outpatient care, extended care, home care, prescription drugs, dental care, and eye care. Again, please note that the healthcare regulations are still under debate and could change at any time. Keep up with International Living for up-to-date information as this develops.

Dental Care in Ecuador

Dental care in Ecuador is also a bargain, costing 80% to 90% less than similar care in the United States. As with physicians, you will find that most dentists are well trained and have access to the latest technology. Many of them also speak English.

Checking prices for dental care, a cleaning costs $30 to $45. Cavity repairs and fillings cost $25 to $35. Partial plates cost $325 and a complete set of dentures costs about $900, including office visits, fittings, lab work, and impressions.