Recently, I spent a few weeks with my left arm in a sling. While walking on the malecon, the brick walkway along the Pacific Ocean at our home in Salinas, Ecuador, expat friends and neighbors would stop and ask me what had happened? When I replied that I had surgery, it was surprising to me how often the next statement was “Oh really? I didn’t even know you went back to the States!”
My wife Rita and I have been living in Ecuador for two years now, and I am happy to report that you can indeed get excellent quality healthcare in Ecuador…and at a fraction of the cost in North America.
When we first moved to Ecuador we did our due diligence checking out the options for health insurance. Basically, you have four choices. Free care through emergency rooms, signing up for IESS (government sponsored healthcare), private insurance, or to pay as you go.
Everyone needs to assess his or her own needs and expenses, but for us, pay as you go was the best option. This is possible in Ecuador because even the best private doctors and labs are affordable.
For example, a complete blood panel costs $25 here and X-rays $20 to $40. A visit to the doctor costs between $20 and $60, depending on the area and specialty. We can get a GP to make a house call to our oceanfront condo for $60, including medication. Finally, since we still have a Health Savings Account in the U.S., we can get electronically reimbursed quickly and easily for qualified expenses.
When I started having pain in my shoulder whenever I moved my arm in certain directions, I just visited the website of one of the best hospitals in Ecuador, and sent an email to their orthopedic staff. I got a reply within an hour, from a surgeon offering an appointment that afternoon in nearby Guayaquil.
That kind of quick action is typical in Ecuador. Only 14 days passed between my initial consultation and the surgery, and that was with a four-day holiday in the middle. Another surprising feature is the amount of personal responsibility and control you have over the process.
In Ecuador, when you get a sonogram, MRI, X-ray, or blood test, you get the results. You then bring them to your doctor, but you keep them. Also, if you think you need a particular test or procedure and your doctor agrees, that is your decision. There is no need to wait for an insurance carrier to approve or insist on other steps first.
The quality of care and the facilities are excellent, and very affordable. Nine weeks after my shoulder surgery, I now have full range of pain-free movement. My entire experience, including doctor’s visits, tests, scans, surgery, an overnight hospital stay, follow-up visits, and four weeks of daily physical therapy came to just under $6,000. Compare that to similar surgery I had on the other shoulder in the U.S. a few years ago. In that case, there was one surgeon, it was outpatient, and it was four months between initial visit and surgery. The total for that was over $16,000.
In short, if you are considering Ecuador as a place to live or retire, in addition to the great weather, low cost of living, healthy food, and wonderful people, our experiences have shown us that you also can indeed find affordable and excellent healthcare in Ecuador.
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