Health Care in Ecuador: A Top Haven for Quality Care Overseas

Patty and Mike Grimm have been in Ecuador for nearly three years. During that time, “we have pretty much covered the gamut of medical care, including dentistry, eye exams and glasses, emergency rooms, colonoscopy, mammogram, gallbladder removal, treatment for ulcers (endoscopes), and serious back treatments,” says Mike. “In each and every case, our care has been first class, with very caring and skilled medical practitioners. And it’s been a fraction of the cost of the U.S.”

Over and over, expats praise Ecuadorian doctors who “put the patient first” and take time with their patients—up to 45 minutes for an office visit, if needed.

In Ecuador’s major cities—Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil—English-speaking doctors are fairly common, since many have gone to medical school in the U.S. These three cities are also where you’ll find Ecuador’s most modern hospitals and most of the medical specialists.

Costs are low—about 10% to 25% of what you’d pay in the U.S. For major surgeries, the cost is often less than 10%.

Expat Linn Smith, who lives in Cuenca, can attest to the low cost. She had an emergency appendectomy whose total cost—laparoscopic surgery, doctors, nurses, hospital, equipment, and medications—was only $1,200. “This same surgery can cost $40,000 to $60,000 in the U.S.,” she says.

It’s no wonder, then, that a recent survey in GringoTree, the Cuenca equivalent of Craigslist, revealed that 67% of expats are “self-insured”—pay as you go.

But insurance is available. In addition to international plans, you can choose an Ecuadorian health-insurance plan, which costs around $70 a month. Or you can choose a health plan offered by a private hospital.

Ecuador also has a public health-care system. In 2010 and 2011 the country spent millions of dollars to upgrade this system, and it now allows expats to join it. To qualify, expats must hold a residence visa and be between the ages of 18 and 60. The cost is $60 to $70 a month, and you must pay for three months before you can access regular care (one month for emergency care).

Under the public system, you have no choice of doctors and you must sometimes wait weeks for appointments. But coverage is comprehensive, with no deductible. You’ll be referred to a specialist if needed and transferred to a private hospital if you require special facilities—at no additional charge.

Most drugs are available without prescription, although they often have different brand names. The doctor or pharmacy can cross-reference the names.

“Services here are expanding, spurred in part by progress, U.S./European-trained doctors and the influx of expat arrivals,” says expat Linda Walker.

“All of our physicians regularly attend Latin American, Stateside and worldwide seminars/conventions to keep abreast of the latest in their fields. You’ll now find dental state-of-the-art offices that rival any in the U.S.”

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