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Cuenca

Expats Talk about Health Insurance and Healthcare in Cuenca, Ecuador

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Foreigners in Cuenca offer insight into the quality of medical care in Cuenca, health insurance requirements for expats, what it's like going to the doctor and to local hospitals, such as Moscoso.

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William Russell Health Insurance

How are healthcare services Cuenca?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Cuenca, they replied:

"IESS (federal system) is cheapest insurance here UNLESS you came on "retirement income" visa, where it can be quite expensive (they they charge 17% of your income for the insurance). Almost all non-opioid prescription meds in the US are available here OTC," commented one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

"If you need medical care and have good knowledge of Spanish, the state system IESS may be your choice, however if you are retired they raised the rates to about 17.5% of retirement income. I have cheap (low quality) insurance which reportedly doesn't pay, which is fine for me because I would rather pay 45 per month for insurance that I can't use than 75/mo for insurance I won't use," added another expat.

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"Don't come down here looking for a miracle cure for your ails. You would find the experience frustrating and assistance costs would wipe out the advantage I think. I do know from some other gringos, and gringo sites, that some medications are not available here, I don't have that experience," said an expat in Cuenca.

"Health insurance is required of expats living in Ecuador. We didn't have to use any emergency health facilities, but in general, our friends were satisfied with the quality of care. It was nice to visit a doctor and be treated directly by her at a reasonable price. We got a reduced rate for our perscriptions through our insurance. Many of our perscriptions are "over-the-counter" in Ecuador," commented one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Cuenca?

"Private health insurance here is a fraud. The only people buying it are US expats who were trained that you need it in the States. Here, health care is so cheap that you will NEVER recover your premiums. Example - insurance quoted me $400/mo insurance. I just spent 2 weeks in the hospital in a private room with excellent care, and the total cost (no insurance used) was just over $5,000. IOW, one year of premium to pay for 2 weeks hospital, Unless you are in the hospital a LOT, you are better off self-insuring (as we do)," said another expat.

"I would pay out of pocket if it were still available, because doctors are cheap. With my cheap insurance, I will still have to pay out of pocket and maybe get reimbursement if I'm lucky. Insurance here is a government sponsored racket, as whenever government requires something the drops and prices go up, that's why governments do it. If it were a service people actually wanted it wouldn't be required," remarked another expat in Cuenca.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Ecuador

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What are emergency services like in Cuenca?

When we asked about emergency services, members in Cuenca wrote:

"Hospitals are everywhere. I have three hospitals within 1 mile of my home in Cuenca. The public hospital is OK if you have lots of time and very little money and the issue is not life threatening. The private hospitals are every bit as good as in the US. I was in one just a week ago in fact (pneumonia)," commented one expat who moved to Cuenca.

"The Big Public Hospital in Cuenca is Moscosa, which is about a mile away. I've been to the bathroom there and wouldn't recommend it, because if the bathrooms aren't clean, I wouldn't trust the service (same goes for restaurants.)," said another expat.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Learn MoreGET A QUOTE

Will I need to travel to see a specialist?

"Pretty much every specialty can be covered right here in town (Cuenca), We even have a cancer center hospital specifically for that (which is free if you paid for IESS) that has gotten rave reviews from two friends who recently went through cancer treatments. I have two heart specialists myself (stents in 2005 in the US). They seem very competent, though I have had no heart issue since coming to Ecuador," commented one expat who moved to Cuenca.

"I am young and in good health so these don't concern me. I only have insurance because the law requires it," said another expat.

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Are common prescription medications available in Cuenca?

"Almost all non-opioid prescription meds from the US are available OTC here. No prescription needed -- though of course it is recommended to see a doctor to verify you need the same drugs here. We are at 8500' altitude, so some meds might be adjusted due to elevation," said an expat in Cuenca.

"Prescription medication is inexpensive and readily available. If you are on the typical 5 at 50 plan, you can come buy your meds have a nice vacation and still save money over doing the same in the U.S," commented one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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As a foreigner living in Cuenca, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?

"Yes, every expat is required by law to have insurance. The federal system is available, and costs $68/mo for a couple. However, health care is so cheap that I skip the (underfunded and long lines) IESS (federal system) and pay out of pocket for private health care anyway," commented one expat living in Cuenca, Ecuador.

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What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?

We asked expats in Cuenca if they have access to public healthcare in Cuenca. And, if they do have access, what is it like. They wrote...

"Regular Dr visits, no issues regarding Covid One DR visit with my 27 year old son, no issues regarding Covid," mentioned another expat in Cuenca.

"We went into lockdown a few days before the government made it official. If I were to get sick, with any cause, I would stay home. I'm not sure that is any different here than in the USA. Here at least the people embraced the guidance of masks, bleach boxes, disinfecting, limited number of people in a store at a time, etc. Here in Cuenca we did see a similar spike in cases as experienced in Quito and Guayaquil, however, local government shut the highways down promptly. Many communities in the surrounding area locked their towns down to minimize exposure. Some hospital facilities are far superior than others, my coverage would require I visit the better government hospital first, possibly referred to a private hospital if the care required was beyond their "normal" care. For that reason I don't really worry, at the worst I just go to the good one and pay out of pocket," commented one expat who moved to Cuenca, Ecuador.

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Are healthcare services good in Cuenca?

We asked people if they have access to good medical care in Cuenca. They wrote:

"We had to give up our Canadian (free) coverage, and need 3 months back in Canada and proof of re-residency to get it back. We tried American style health insurance but found it so annoying that we gave it up. We satisfy our local requirements with local insurance (100/month for two) but pay as we go. Medical access is MUCH faster and MUCH better than any we have seen," said another expat in Cuenca.

"We have the best doctor here we have ever had. I feel qualified to say that as I was a nurse for 46 years and know quality care. We pay $30/one hour visit. She actually listens and explains everything," added another person living in Cuenca.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood 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.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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