Learn About the Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats in Bolivia
Traveling to Bolivia for the first time? Feeling a bit intimidated? With proper precaution, digital nomads, global citizens, and expats can experience the beautiful and wonderful Bolivia. The country is full of unique attractions. Travelers can enjoy picturesque scenery at Salar de Uyuni, Parque Nacional Madidi, Cordillera Real, and Lake Titicaca, among many others. However, understanding the Bolivia healthcare system and insurance options will help you enjoy your adventure.
While in Bolivia, learning some basic Spanish will be helpful. It is particularly useful when you have to visit a clinic or medical facility for some healthcare or treatment. It becomes easy to converse with the medical staff and explain your concern to them. Healthcare in Bolivia can be a bit difficult to access, especially in rural areas and small cities. Bolivia has become the latest Latin American country to introduce free healthcare to its poorest citizens. The new public healthcare system introduced by Ex-President Evo Morales has assisted at least 35,000 patients.
Overview of Healthcare System
The World Bank partially funds Bolivia’s healthcare system. The country’s medical system is undergoing significant reforms. However, the number of physicians in Bolivia has doubled since the past few years. But there is still a lot that needs to be done on the ground.
Bolivia launched the new and free Unified Health System (SUS in Spanish). This system covers at least 70% of the Bolivian population who lack any form of insurance. Under the new public healthcare system, at least 35,000 patients have so far received help and been given medical aid.
At the moment, priorities include providing basic healthcare to citizens and focusing on tackling diseases such as diarrhea and tuberculosis. These two diseases are the leading causes of death among Bolivian children.
How the Bolivian Healthcare Works for Expats?
Bolivia’s exclusive attractions and landscapes draw a lot of travelers to the country. Expats have also made La Paz their prized destination. For residents actively employed in Bolivia, social security is in place for them. As per law, both the employers, as well as the employees, have to contribute towards the payment system. The contributions serve as savings that are later used to cover the cost of healthcare. In 2019, Bolivia rolled out its Universal Healthcare to cover the 5.8 million uninsured citizens.
All those traveling to Bolivia should make sure they secure international health insurance covers that not only take care of the medical costs but also cover air evacuation in case of a medical emergency. We advise foreign visitors to carry their prescription medicines and all the essential medical equipment that they may need during their stay in Bolivia.
Medical facilities existing in cities, namely Clinica Foianini, Centro Medico Especializado (CEMES), Clinico Sirani, and Clinica Del Sur, among others, all cater to the expats and foreign travelers. Most offer English-speaking physicians and medical staff.
Public and Private Healthcare in Bolivia
The high prevalence of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, leptospirosis, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, and bacterial diarrhea has created immense pressure on the public healthcare system of Bolivia. Furthermore, the low level of sanitation and the poor quality of healthcare is a cause for concern. Here’s a list of vaccinations to get before traveling to Bolivia from CDC.
It is all the more reason to provide medical insurance to the entire population. The government has introduced basic public health insurance for all its citizens. It covers the majority of the cost of care, but for some conditions, the entire cost of care. For those actively employed in the country, social security is in place. In the case of expats, both the employer as well as the employee has to contribute.
The affluent citizens, along with expats and foreign visitors, prefer to visit the private medical facilities and centers that belong to the major cities. These healthcare centers not only offer a better quality of care and sanitation, but they also respond immediately at times of emergency. We advise those visiting Bolivia to purchase international health insurance, especially one that covers air evacuation if there is a medical emergency.
Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Bolivia
Private health insurance is meant for private medical facilities and covers the majority of the cost of care. Both local health insurance plans and international health insurance plans are available in Bolivia. As is evident, local health insurance plans only offer cover within Bolivia. For any treatment outside Bolivia, it is prudent to purchase a global health insurance plan. These plans have a high coverage limit and can be used in Bolivian healthcare facilities too.
Expats and foreign visitors to Bolivia are advised to choose private health insurance covers for easy access to private centers. But for the treatment of major illnesses and surgeries, they should all be got done out of Bolivia. In case the medical costs are not reimbursed immediately, expats and travelers should retain all bills and proof of payment so that they can make the claims at a later date.
Before going ahead and purchasing an international health insurance cover, expats can take a look at Cigna Global Health to weigh their options. Though opting for a short-term plan may sound economical for a short stay in Bolivia, it is always prudent to go for an international health insurance plan that has comprehensive coverage.