Medical care in Ecuador…

Attractive cactus tree in the Galapagos Islands.

Many travelers often mention that Ecuador has good medicalcare, especially when many expats settle in the country for that reason, along with the lower cost of living than many other countries. Today, we’re sharing information about this topic, coupled with a smidgen of information from our recent experience.

From the US Embassy site on medical care in Ecuador:

“Medical Assistance

The Embassy cannot provide health care or medical facilities for private U.S. citizens in Ecuador. We can, however, provide a list of names and addresses of doctors and facilities for you to choose from. Should you be injured or become seriously ill while in Ecuador, the Consular Section can assist you by providing a list of medical practitioners and hospitals and informing family and friends, at your request, of your well-being.

Health Insurance Overseas

We strongly recommend acquiring Overseas health insurance before traveling to Ecuador. If you have Medicare, we advise you that Medicare does not cover health coverage outside the U.S. In addition, we also recommend looking for a Health Insurance plan with Medical Evacuation coverage since evacuations may be expensive, from $ 10,000.00 and up.

Prescription Medications

While you travel, we always recommend that you take enough medication, if required to take any, at least for the length of your trip. If you happen to run out of your medication, unfortunately, the U.S. Embassy or Consulate can’t help you by receiving any medication.

Also, please note that special laws and regulations might be in force for sending medication to Ecuador. It does not matter if the package was sent with a courier company, cargo company, or regular mail. Some medications may even need a written import permit issued by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health or may be restricted by the Ecuadorian National Council of Control Substances. Packages detained by Ecuadorian Customs can’t be released by having someone from the Embassy or Consulate call in. We recommend you research what local options you can get for your prescription medication in case of emergency before traveling.”

International Living Magazine published an article regarding medical care in Ecuador, inspiring many foreigners to visit the country for care and procedures. Here is the article in part from this site:

“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 worldwide found that Ecuador’s costs are the lowest—lower than those in China, Malaysia, India, Mexico, and Panama. Generally, you can expect to pay 10% to 25% of what you would in the U.S. For major surgery, we’ve seen several cases in which costs were even less than 10% of comparable procedures in the U.S. You will find similar savings for dental care.

Lots of iguanas on the walkway. (Repost).

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 to a Quito medical association, is about $65,000 a year.

A visit to a general practitioner costs $20 to $35, while a visit to a specialist runs anywhere from $40 to $80. For follow-up visits, there is usually no charge at all. A psychiatrist will charge $40 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 and are 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 aged 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 monthly.

Turtles at Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve in San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos

The policy cited is offered by Salud S.A. (website:, 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. Remember that international policies must cover high-priced countries like 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 for the rate of their IESS insurance to be set. That figure will be used if your visa is based on your pension. 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 (or 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. Remember that 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 anytime. 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.”

For the balance of this article, please click here and scroll down.

Baby turtle enjoying the water at the sanctuary.

As for our personal experience with medical care thus far, although very limited, with only one visit to the cardiologist in Manta (returning for a second visit next Wednesday), the office, his staff, and the doctor were all very professional. The doctor spoke no English, but one of his staff members spoke excellent English and was my translator.

The office was impeccably clean and organized and appeared to have the latest equipment and supplies from what I could determine. Nothing in the office or building was in ill repair, as one may expect. A guard greeted patients at reception, and we were asked to wait in the lobby before heading up the elevator to the office facility. Once in the doctor’s reception area, I was taken in to see the doctor immediately.

There are countless articles on healthcare in Ecuador, and if you are interested, please type “medical care Ecuador” in a Google or other search engine to read further.

As for our current location, we would advise staying closer to a big city for medical care rather than staying at a remote location such as Guayaquil, Cuenca, etc. See this list of population statistics for Ecuador here. (Scroll down the page).

We’ll report back after my next cardiology appointment.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, November 16, 2013:

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