Puerto Rico Healthcare System & Medical Insurance Options for Expats
A part of the American territory, Puerto Rico is popular for its history and culture. The beach resorts and natural wonders draw a lot of tourists as well as expats to its shores. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, historical buildings and culture fill the capital city of San Juan. Here’s what you need to know about the Puerto Rico healthcare system and medical insurance options for expats.
Although quite a remote Caribbean island, most Puerto Ricans can receive medical care and aid when they need it. Though both English and Spanish are the official languages, it is Spanish that is spoken the most in the island nation.
More health information about Puerto Rico is available at CDC.
Overview of Puerto Rico Healthcare System
Healthcare in Puerto Rico is almost similar to what one expects in the US. Yes, that’s true. Healthcare is of good quality, but conditions vary throughout the island, with some areas better than others.
Overall Puerto Rico has a well-rounded healthcare system. It can cater well to its citizens and visitors. The patients may face long waiting times at the public hospitals, because of the shortage of medical staff.
All those having medical insurance find it easier to deal with the health system in case of an emergency or medical evacuation. Natural calamities like earthquakes and hurricanes are prevalent on the island. This is also a good reason to buy global medical insurance along with travel insurance.
How the Puerto Rican Healthcare System Works for Expats?
Healthcare in Puerto Rico is not free. Expats and tourists would find it prudent to opt for appropriate medical insurance. Find an international health insurance plan that suits your needs and then buy it. A healthcare plan will protect you against any medical issues and concerns that you may face during your stay in Puerto Rico. Insurance plans also make sense because they offer you the flexibility to visit a doctor or hospital of your choice.
All people traveling to Puerto Rico should make sure that their immunizations are up to date. You are also advised to carry your own medical kit. This kit must contain your prescription medications, along with antibiotics and pills to treat traveler’s diarrhea or other infections that could occur there.
Note that we are not allowed to source health coverage for Americans living in Puerto Rico.
Public Healthcare in Puerto Rico
The public healthcare sector in Puerto Rico is generally well managed and is handled via a government-run program. No, healthcare is not free. However, the government provides insurance for those who qualify for the “la Reforma”, a government-funded program.
Due to the public healthcare system being underfunded, there is quite a big shortage of doctors. The shortage of funds also forces many doctors to move to the US in search of better salaries. Due to this most expats opt for private healthcare. It is not just of better quality, but also well-equipped and closer to the Western medical system.
Private Healthcare in Puerto Rico
The private healthcare system is not only of a high standard but also has a shorter wait time. But to avail of private medical facilities, all expats and tourists are advised to buy appropriate medical insurance. Though cashless facilities do exist, it is a good idea to carry along some cash when visiting your doctor.
While deciding on which doctor to go to for treatment, it is best to ask friends and neighbors for advice. Do not blindly follow the list that health insurance companies provide.
The San Juan metro area has a good number of experienced doctors and high-quality medical care facilities. Though many websites of clinics and medical centers claim that online appointments can be made, most places take appointments over the phone. You can expect qualified doctors and nurses to provide good quality healthcare in private hospitals.
Emergency Medical Services in Puerto Rico
Dial 911 in case of a medical emergency. Most operators converse in Spanish. However, if required, you can transfer your call to an English speaker. Also check if your health insurance covers emergencies, while you are in the island nation.
Ambulances that private companies operate require an upfront payment. Several health insurance policies do not cover ambulance costs at the time of an emergency. Do check at the time of purchasing your policy.
Medicines and Pharmacies
Though most medicines are available in Puerto Rico, it is safest to carry your prescription medications. You do not need to make an appointment to get laboratory tests done. Most lab technicians speak both, English and Spanish. After the conclusion of the lab tests and completion of results, the patient needs to collect the lab results and deliver them to their doctor.
Best Private International Medical Insurance Plans for Expats in Puerto Rico
Most health insurance plans cover all major medical expenses. Nevertheless, it makes sense to check what your policy covers ahead of time. Many plans cover common health care costs. Despite that, they may not cover serious injuries or illnesses requiring medical evacuation. Therefore, it is best to check whether your plan includes an emergency evacuation plan in the policy.
Expats should consider securing international health insurance for themselves and their families. These plans have high coverage limits. They may not only cover most of the costs of care at the best medical facilities in the country but also cover treatment in other locations. Finally, note that since Puerto Rico is part of the USA, we are not able to source global health plans for Americans who will be living there or about to.