Expat Health in Guatemala | www.centralamerica.com

The state of healthcare in Guatemala is a major concern for many expats. But with some preparation, figuring out what works best for you should make things easier.

When moving to a new country, health care is one of the most important issues to consider.

No one wants to get sick and not know what to do or where to go.

That’s why it’s good to have options in case of an emergency, and knowing the facts about healthcare in your new country is essential.

The public health system in Guatemala is bad, to be very honest.

There are many reports highlighting the inefficiency of public health care in Guatemala. Although the medical care itself is free, the government does not guarantee that it will be of any quality.

After navigating the policy of going to a doctor first, public hospitals lack basic equipment, staff and medicines. It is therefore essential to have private health care coverage giving you access to the best hospitals.

Here are the three basic things to keep in mind when considering healthcare in Guatemala:

1. Coverage

Health care coverage varies from provider to provider and country to country.

So it pays to look into your existing health insurance policy.

Most private health insurance plans provide coverage outside of your home country. Although your current policy may not include overseas cover, it is worth considering the additional cost this would cost.

There are several expatriate medical insurance plans, starting at around $50 per month for basic coverage. When considering pre-existing conditions, the premium may increase.

Medication is another concern for expatriates. Are the prescription drugs you need available in Guatemala? It pays to do your homework on this before you travel. If you can stock up in advance, a good three-month supply should work while you sort out to get your prescriptions filled.

Changing doctors can also be a challenge.

Finding a good doctor is easy, but finding a doctor who speaks English can be difficult. Most medical professionals speak at least some English, so occasional checkups shouldn’t be a problem. However, more regular and complicated treatments can be difficult for some. Most expats schedule visits with their regular doctor when they return home.

2. Cost of healthcare in Guatemala

Despite the sorry state of public health care in Guatemala, most large private hospitals in Guatemala are good (note the word private).

But their prices match their reputation, and out-of-pocket emergency care can be expensive. Expect an emergency to cost you a few thousand dollars. Unless you’re wealthy enough not to worry about health insurance, it can derail anyone’s budget.

It pays to search for specific private hospitals in Guatemala. For example, when looking for insurance abroad, also check the exact hospitals covered by the cover. Different insurance companies work with different hospitals, some of which may be better at certain procedures than others.

Reputable hospitals in Guatemala have English-speaking staff and can handle any emergency. Most treatments will not be a problem unless there is an abnormal illness or injury.

If you have a pre-existing condition, it would also be beneficial to double-check to make sure these hospitals can meet your specific needs.

3. Quality

Many expats worry about the quality of healthcare in any country they visit, and as mentioned, private healthcare is the way to go in Guatemala.

Since you don’t want to rely on the public system, private health care, coupled with good insurance, should meet all of your needs.

The key is to do your homework and research beforehand.

Many of the largest private hospitals in Guatemala are members of international medical associations. So, a little research can reassure you.

Finding a doctor – or a hospital – can cost you valuable time and even put your life in danger.

What if you don’t trust health care in Guatemala or can’t get coverage?

Changing doctors, pharmacists and hospitals can be difficult, especially with a pre-existing condition.

Expats in this situation often prefer to schedule regular trips home to renew their prescriptions, see their doctor or get checked out. Some expats are comfortable doing this and consider it part of their normal life in Guatemala.

But it’s always a good idea to make plans for an emergency.

Some emergencies may wait long enough for you to get home and some may not. For cases where it cannot wait, visiting hospitals and consulting doctors can reassure you. But you may be required to cover the expenses.

Your best option is to know about any medical conditions you may have. In this way, the only surprises you will encounter will be the pleasant ones.

Best hospitals in Guatemala:

Source: Webometrics World Hospital Rankings

Nestor Quixtan is a Canadian/Guatemalan economist, linguist and writer. He lives in Guatemala City.

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