One of the primary considerations when planning your retirement is the quality of healthcare in your chosen destination. Whether you choose to stay in your home country or decide to spend your golden years in a tropical paradise like the Philippines, your health should be a top priority.
A few weeks back we published the article The Benefits of Retiring to the Philippines and questions about healthcare have been posted by commenters. Since this issue is very important, we figured it merits a full-on discussion.
Quality of Service
Let me reiterate what I had mentioned in the post. Medical professionals, particularly doctors, have had top quality instruction abroad. While medical schools in the Philippines are competent and are at par with global standards, our doctors always seek opportunities to widen their knowledge in their respective practice.
Also, Filipino nurses are considered the best in the world. Why else would countries like the U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, to name a few, demand for Filipino nurses to work in their hospitals? Filipino nurses are compassionate and very efficient that’s why they are preferred all over the world.
Based on Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) statistics, over 16,000 licensed Filipino nurses were deployed in 2013 alone. These are only new hires; add the numbers from the previous years since the demand for nurses spiked and you can easily reach a million. Some of the world’s richest countries welcome Filipino nurses into their work force every year to take care of their sick and elderly.
It’s a perfect scenario of “brain drain”, right? Wrong. Filipino nurses are required to render service in a Filipino hospital (private or public) for 2-3 years before they can seek employment abroad. They hone their skills locally, get certifications and undergo intensive testing before they can go on to greener pastures.
I am in no way insinuating that medical professionals in the Philippines are perfect. In fact, there have been controversial cases of malpractice that have resulted to revocation of licenses. While there is no guarantee that all doctors and healthcare providers are competent, government sanctions prevent these professionals from performing short of their duties.
Hospitals and Health Centers
There are plenty of government-run hospitals located all over the Philippines, the biggest of which are in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. There are also a lot of provincial hospitals and privately-owned healthcare institutions all over the country. While the quality of facilities in each hospital varies, there are a good number of world-class institutions in the country like St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City and Quezon City, Makati Medical Center in Makati and Asian Hospital and Medical Center in Muntinlupa City, among others.
These hospitals are accredited by the Department of Health, the government agency that manages all aspects involving the healthcare in the Philippines.. Public hospitals in the country cater to the medical needs of the masses hence the crowds and poor condition of amenities and facilities.
Those who can afford private health care go to non-government-run hospitals where facilities are more modern. Expatriates are advised to seek medical assistance in private hospitals since the services are more personalized and there’s easier access to important diagnostic paraphernalia.
In addition to hospitals, there are also health care centers in most barangays where basic services are offered like prenatal care, first aid, childhood vaccines and laboratory procedures for the elderly, among others. These services are rendered for free or for a minimal charge.
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is a government-owned corporation that provides affordable healthcare in the Philippines for both Filipino and foreign residents. In 2015, PhilHealth has included expatriates in their coverage under the Informal Economy bracket. Members of PhilHealth pay minimal dues which can be taken care of annually or quarterly. Coverage can be maximized in public hospitals where patients have been discharged with zero charges. In private hospitals, PhilHealth covers a large percentage of the hospital bills and professional fees.
Expatriates are advised to register with PhilHealth and keep a copy of their Member’s Data Record (MDR) and record of premiums. To register, you only need to present a copy of your Alien Certificate of Registration along with the completed PhilHealth Membership Form. If you’re married to a Filipino, your spouse can register you as a dependent. In the event of hospitalization, the MDR and premiums record are required for processing of insurance benefits.
Foreign health insurance policies may or may not be accepted in the Philippines. Medicare, the primary health insurance for American retirees, does not provide coverage overseas. However, according to respected retirement blog My Philippine Life, retirees living or planning to live in the Philippines may enroll to the Medicare Advantage program which links Medicare coverage to an HMO (Health Maintenance Organizations) that operates in the Philippines. In effect, the HMO provides you coverage and Medicare pays the HMO for any expenses incurred.
Private insurance providers like Intellicare, Maxicare Health Care, Blue Cross Philippines and Insular Health Care also offer excellent policies. These are accepted in most private hospitals in the Philippines. U.S. Blue Cross Insurance is accepted in very few institutions including Asian Hospital in Metro Manila. Veterans of the U.S. Army can also seek medical care in VA clinics.
To sum these all up, I would say that expat retirees should not have problems with healthcare in the Philippines. Medical professionals are well-trained and hospitals are modern. While foreign health insurance companies have no guarantees of coverage in the country, local health insurance providers are competitive and easily available for foreigners.
If you have questions regarding this topic, please feel free to start a discussion in the comments below. See you around!