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Essential Guide to the Health System in Ecuador

Gain insight into the health care system in Ecuador. Explore its accessibility and limitations for expatriates, remote workers, retirees, and others who choose to live in Ecuador.
Essential Guide to the Health System in Ecuador

Ecuador’s healthcare system is composed of both public and private healthcare options. The public healthcare system is called the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS) and is available to all Ecuadorian citizens and legal residents. Foreigners (expats and digital nomads) are allowed to use the public healthcare system in Ecuador, however, they are not eligible for the same benefits as Ecuadorian citizens. The public healthcare system is used by foreigners, but it is not recommended for serious medical emergencies or major surgery. Public hospitals in Ecuador are often overcrowded and understaffed, and the quality of care can be inconsistent.

Ecuador’s Private Healthcare System

Private healthcare in Ecuador is more expensive than public healthcare, but it is often of higher quality. Expats primarily use private hospitals, and they are recommended for serious medical emergencies and major surgery. Private hospitals in Ecuador are typically well-equipped and staffed, and the quality of care is generally good.

Ecuador’s Top Hospitals

Some of the most well-known hospitals in Ecuador include:

  • Hospital Metropolitano in Quito (private)
  • Hospital de Especialidades in Guayaquil (public)
  • Hospital Carlos Andrade Marín in Quito (public)
  • Hospital Vozandes Quito (private)
  • Hospital del Valle in Cuenca (private)
  • Hospital de Clínicas in Quito (public)
  • Hospital de la Policía Nacional in Quito (public)
  • Hospital del Río in Guayaquil (private)
  • Hospital de Niños Benjamín Carrión in Quito (public)

Health Insurance Companies in Ecuador

The most popular private health insurers in Ecuador are Pacifico Seguros, Mapfre Seguros, and Banco Pichincha Seguros. Expats and digital nomads typically use these companies or specialized expat health insurance providers.

Insider Tips from Expats in Ecuador: How to Navigate the Health System

“It is good for a non life-threatening emergency or routine ailments, but anything complicated or that requires technology or advanced treatment, you’d have to go elsewhere,” commented one expat living in Canoa, Ecuador.

“I don’t require prescription medication, however, many expats in the community have shared that availability of prescription medications and the costs are extremely low compared to North America. They have their prescriptions translated into Spanish for simplifying the process at the pharmacy,” mentioned one expat living in Ecuador.

“There is essentially no healthcare options in my town but there are good options 3 hours away or acceptable ones just 45 minutes away,” said an expat in Ecuador.

“Socialized medicine has many flaws versus private medicine. Due to age and prior conditions , government medical plans are the only “play”,” remarked one expat in Ecuador.

“For anything serious we go to Ibarra or Quito, Cotacachi is a small village without a lot of health resources except for minor things,” said one expat living in Ecuador.

“Cotacachi has very little health care if you compare it to the U.S. Ibarra, Quito, and Cuenca offer excellent health care,” commented one expat who moved to Ecuador.

“Ecuadorian Social Security (EISS) is comprehensive and includes doctor visits, tests, and frequently used medicines. Due to the pressure of the Pandemic less services (specialists, face-to-face doctor visits, speedy lab tests) are available though the system still works. It’s set up a bit like an HMO, with doctors on staff who can be asked for by name. Meds are despensed on site. ,” said one expat.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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