15 Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Guatemala
Last updated on Feb 05, 2023
Summary: The quality of medical care in Guatemala is generally lower than in the United States. Emergency services are limited and often lack the necessary resources to provide adequate care. To call for an ambulance, one must dial the emergency number, 112. However, due to the limited resources, response times can be slow and the quality of care may not be up to the standards of the United States.
How are healthcare services Guatemala?
When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Guatemala, they replied:
"Most expats in Lake Atitlan probably you will be using private medical services. Always make sure to have a clear view of the cost prior engaging in any intervention unless it is an emergency. If you have an insurance check what is taking care or not..," wrote an expat living in Lake Atitlan.
"Make sure to look for the best doctors, get a private Guatemalan insurance to take you the best hospitals.. forget about public hospital unless it is for emergency," said an expat in Guatemala City.
"45 minutes into Guatemala City provides you with world class healthcare at a fraction of the price," said another expat.
"For myself I bring enough of my meds from Canada to hold me over. Any other first aid or illness I have been able to get what is needed, either for me or my neighbours kids who may need meds or see a Doctor. As most Pharmacies are owned by Doctors ,it is convenient and easy to receive treatment," remarked another expat in Panajachel.
Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Guatemala?
"My health insurance take care of 2/3 of the bill but still the cost is very low in total and cheap," mentioned another expat in Lake Atitlan.
What are emergency services like in Guatemala?
When we asked about emergency services, members in Guatemala wrote:
"Hospitals are 1/2 hour away but the best ones are 2 1/2 hours drive away or 20 minutes helicopter flight. All private hospital. Excellent staff and installation," said an expat in Lake Atitlan.
"My closest hospital is 20 minutes drive but it is a public one and wouldn't go there unless to get stabilize before heading to Guatemala City a 2 1/2 drive.. to a private hospital .. Excellent care," commented one expat living in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Will I need to travel to see a specialist?
Are common prescription medications available in Guatemala?
"Every thing is available unless you have high tech drugs.. Most of the medicines are delivered without prescription," said an expat in Lake Atitlan.
"Most of every thing available. Lots of things you need prescription in the first world you can get them here over the counter. But medicines are expensive here," commented one expat living in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
"Healthcare can be a challenge. There are some well trained doctors in the larger villages but their range of care is limited. There is a good private hospital in Santiago (Hospitalito Atitlan) but depending on what kinds of volunteer doctors are there during your emergency they may not be able to help. The public hospital in Solola I call the pre-morgue. It is a grim place I wouldn’t send an enemy. Best care is Guatemala City. A three hour, $100US, ambulance ride away or an expensive helicopter airlift," said another expat.
What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?
We asked members about local medical facilities in Guatemala, they wrote...
"Out of the 2 times that I have gotten sick a couple years ago the doctors were great," added another expat.
"I have had the normal ailments. Colds and diarrhea . I have been stung twice by scorpions and was able to get the proper meds for that.. I have a relationship with Dr. Huricane, to allow my neighbours access to meds when I am not there .He Emails me the situation and I give the OK . I pay him when I get back. Dr. Luis Pena runs a clinic for free also. Expats are asked to give donations to the clinic when they receive a service," commented one expat who moved to Panajachel.
What advice do you have for expats having a baby in Guatemala?
We asked expat moms who gave birth in Guatemala about their experiences and advice they have for other moms to be. They said:
"Have a plan for the birth. It's important to be prepared for both a natural birth and for a medical birth, depending on what your doctor believes is safest for you and the baby. Make sure you ask your doctor about the standard medical procedures and resources available in Guatemala and factor this into your birth plan. Make sure to ask as many questions as possible to ensure you have a clear understanding of the process and the safety measures that will be in place. Additionally, pack an emergency bag with all the necessary items you may need during labour and the immediate postpartum period. Finally, research any postpartum resources that may be available to you in Guatemala such as visiting midwives and lactation consultants who can help with breastfeeding and newborn care," added another person living in Guatemala.
"Have a plan B in case you went your baby delivered at home.. If you choose a doctor be sure he won't put you on a schedule and make the baby come when he wants as they have the tendency to do it.," explained one expat living in Panajachel.
Are healthcare services good in Guatemala?
We asked people if they have access to good medical care in Guatemala. They wrote:
"Healthcare services in Guatemala vary greatly in quality and accessibility. Rural areas often lack access to any healthcare services and in many areas, privatization of healthcare services has resulted in reduced access to services for those with lower incomes. Additionally, due to a lack of investment in infrastructure and training, services are often provided by inadequately trained personnel and with inadequate equipment. Many people in Guatemala are uninsured and consequently face difficulties in accessing healthcare services, including the inability to pay for services," said another expat in Guatemala.
"Health care is for the most part affordable in Guatemala. I have had major surgery here and it was very good and far below the cost of a co-pay in the US. But one must shop around and ask other people for recommendations. Some places exploit older patients and do unnecessary treatments. But there are lots of really good doctors here. One suggestion: look for a doctor who actually listens to you and respects your opinions. The younger ones often have a US attitude that is not helpful," added another person living in Guatemala.
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.
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