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24 Facts About Healthcare In The Philippines Every Expat Must Know

If you plan on living in the Philippines, it’s important to understand that despite recent advancements, the country’s healthcare system varies from excellent to awful. From PhilHealth to HMOs, private insurance to public healthcare, this guide provides key details about healthcare in the Philippines that every expat must know. minutes

  Mins Reading Time

Published On: November 13, 2023

Latest Update: April 12, 2024

About the author

Hi, I'm Marco Sison. I worked in finance for Fortune 50 companies before retiring early at 41 years old. I have been an expat for over 10 years, living in over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries outside the USA. I am a trusted resource on personal finance and overseas retirement for US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, Association of MBAs, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller- Abroad: Expats That Thrive.

QUICK SUMMARY- PHILIPPINE HEALTHCARE SERVICES

  • The Philippines is known for producing highly skilled healthcare professionals
  • Expats have access to quality care at reduced costs, with insurance starting at $50 per month
  • Public and private sectors coexist; public hospitals are cheaper, but private hospitals offer more expensive, higher-quality care.
  • President Duterte signed a 2019 Universal Health Bill to include all citizens in the PhilHealth system and improve access to healthcare.
  • Ongoing healthcare reforms address accessibility and cost, yet face challenges in resources, wait times, and infrastructure.
  • Aging expats may encounter soaring premiums and coverage termination in private health insurance after age 60.

Overview of Healthcare in the Philippines

Over the last 25 years, the public health sector has undergone reforms that have improved healthcare standards in the Philippines. According to Statista, the Philippines currently ranks 96th on the world’s top healthcare systems. In most cities, healthcare in the Philippines will be just as good, if not better, than in other developing countries. As a result of its high-quality, low-cost private healthcare system, the Philippines has become a popular destination for medical tourism and permanent relocation.

The country’s National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) funds the Philippines’ health insurance system and ensures access to cost-effective and quality healthcare services for its population.

Table of Contents – Click To Expand:

24 Facts About Healthcare In The Philippines Every Expat Must Know

This post may contain affiliate links. I may get a commission if you purchase something using my link. Please note, there is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you. For more information, please see my disclosure.

QUICK TIPS- PHILIPPINES

Show a mandatory departure ticket. You cannot enter the Philippines on a one-way ticket if you only have a tourist visa or visa on arrival. You will need a flight ticket with a date leaving the country before your visa expires. Save money by showing immigration you have  a cheap onward travel ticket for just $14

Get help with your visa. The Philippines visa process can get complicated. The rules and regulations change frequently. Avoid the hassle of dealing with the immigration bureaucracy by speaking with a Philippines Visa Specialist. 

Learn some basic Tagalog phrases. While nearly everyone speaks some English, learning some basic Tagalog is always appreciated by Filipinos. Get a FREE Language Lesson using the same learning technique used by the US State Department, FBI, and overseas military.

Save On Moving Costs. Save up to 40% on your international moving costs. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with 10,000+ pre-screened global moving companies to save you time and money. Fill out our 60-second form and get 5 free quotes from accredited moving companies competing for your business.

Get Free Expat Health Insurance Quotes. Your home insurance will not cover you while abroad. However, you can find affordable international health insurance for less than what you would pay in the United States. 

Expat Guide To Living In The Philippines- Costs, Visas, Safety, Pros & Cons (2022)
How To Get A Philippines Retirement Visa For As Low As $1500
2024 Philippines Online Annual Reporting Requirement Guide for Expats
Expat Life in the Philippines: An American Expat’s Pros and Cons
Foreigner’s Guide To Prenuptial Agreements in the Philippines- Protecting Your Money
A Comprehensive Guide To Philippines Health Insurance For Expats
How Do I Send Money to the Philippines? My Remittance Rundown
Best Places To Live In Manila- An Expat Guide To Metro Neighborhoods
An Expat Guide On Where To Eat In Manila [Best Restaurants and Groceries]

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Quality of healthcare in the Philippines

The private and public sectors contribute to the Philippine healthcare system. The government primarily funds the public healthcare system through taxes and subsidies, while the private system relies mainly on out-of-pocket payments.

The quality of care varies widely. Private and Urban are generally better than Public and Rural. Private healthcare facilities in Manila have significantly better equipment and training than public clinics in the province.

INSIDER TIP: Language Barriers- The good news for foreigners is English is widely spoken in the Philippines regardless of healthcare options. There should be minimal language barriers when explaining symptoms or getting a proper diagnosis.

Healthcare services can be paid for in the following ways:

  • Public or private insurance
  • Out-of-pocket cash payments or credit card
  • A combination of both

How Does the Philippines Healthcare System Work for Expats?

Even though healthcare is generally expensive for Filipinos, most expats will find it much cheaper than in their own country. Foreigners can choose between the public and private healthcare systems, with both having different standards of care.

The public system offers low-cost services, while the private sector provides more specialized care at a higher cost.

Expats can purchase Philippine health insurance, opt for international health insurance, or self-insurance to cover potential healthcare expenses.

The Philippines Public Healthcare System

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or PhilHealth, is the county’s primary public health insurance plan. It was created to deliver universal health insurance coverage for the population, making healthcare accessible, available, and affordable for many.

Taxes, subsidies, and premium contributions of PhilHealth members fund the public healthcare system. These funds provide a universal healthcare system to all Filipinos and optional access to foreign legal residents. This system includes government-run hospitals and health centers offering low-cost or free medical services.

The three sub-categories of the public healthcare system in the Philippines.

  • National Health Services (primary hospitals)
  • Regional, District, and Rural Health Services (secondary hospitals)
  • Rural Health Units (RHU) and Barangay Health Centers (primary care)

However, due to limited resources, the quality of care in public facilities may not be as high as in private ones. There is also a critical shortage of medical professionals in all regions outside Manila, resulting in crowded hospitals and long waiting times.

Public hospitals offer low-cost or free services

One of the advantages of the Philippines’ healthcare system is its accessibility and affordability for those in need. There are over 700 Public hospitals, funded by the government, offer low-cost or even free services to Filipinos who cannot afford private healthcare.

Data Source

The public healthcare system has well-known challenges, such as limited resources and long wait times. The local population still considers it sufficient and reliable thanks to reforms implemented in the public health sector over more than two decades.

Among the basic coverage covered by the public healthcare system are:

  • Vaccinations
  • Routine check-ups
  • Basic medical treatment

PhilHealth is the governmental body responsible for overseeing public healthcare. The agency subsidizes the cost of hospital treatment, including inpatient care and non-emergency surgeries.

INSIDER TIP: Some PhilHealth Benefits Exclude Expats – PhilHealth doesn’t cover 100% of most treatment costs and excludes specific life-threatening benefits from foreigners. I wrote a detailed article explaining what Philippine Health Insurance benefits exclude for expats and why I still recommend purchasing the annual membership.

The Philippines Private Healthcare System

The private healthcare system, on the other hand, is more advanced and offers better facilities and services. It includes privately owned hospitals, clinics, and health centers that cater to those who can afford to pay for their medical expenses. Most private healthcare providers are in major cities such as Manila, Quezon City, BGC, and Cebu.

The private healthcare sector has three sub-categories.

  • Specialty Private Hospitals
  • General Private Hospitals
  • Private Clinics

Most expats and foreign retirees find the private system options more appealing. While the doctors in public facilities can be just as good (in fact, some doctors work for both public and private hospitals), equipment, facilities, and treatment will be better in private health facilities. 

About 30% of the Philippine population uses the private healthcare system as their main source of care. Most hospitals – almost 60% – are also privately owned

Private healthcare offers shorter wait times and more personalized care but charges significantly higher prices than public healthcare. However, you can purchase a local health plan or expat medical insurance to offset the higher costs.

Medicines and Pharmacies In The Philippines

Pharmacies in the Philippines are widely accessible, whether in large cities or rural areas, offering a range of generic and branded medicines. It’s common to find 24/7 pharmacies along many avenues. Additionally, numerous supermarket chains also carry a selection of essential non-prescription medicines.

Philippine authorities closely regulate the purchase or sale of prescription medicines. A written prescription from your local physician is recommended if you’re undergoing treatment for a pre-existing condition. Additionally, mentioning the generic name of the prescribed medication is helpful, as local pharmacies may not carry the branded medicines.

How Expats Can Qualify for Filipino Health Insurance?

All foreigners working for a Philippine employer are required to enroll in PhilHealth. Additionally, expats and their dependents with legal residency on a Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) or a 13(a) Visa are eligible to become PhilHealth members.

INSIDER TIP: Qualified Dependents- Philippines Visa holders can declare the following as qualified dependents under PhilHealth.

For foreign nationals with Filipino spouses:

  • Filipino spouse and children below 21 years old who is not covered under the NHIP;

For couples who are both foreign nationals:

Either the foreign spouse or one (1) of their children below 21 years old who is not a Filipino citizen

How Can Expats Register for PhilHealth?

Infographic detailing the steps for foreigners to sign up for Philippine Health Insurance

Your company will take care of your PhilHealth registration if you’re employed. Those who aren’t employed can register as an individual member by completing the following steps:

  1. Visit any PhilHealth office and secure a PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF); you can also download it online.
  2. Prepare your documents, such as the PMRF form, a copy of your ID, a copy of your passport, proof of residency, and proof you hold a visa in the Philippines.
  3. Submit your application at any local office of PhilHealth in your area.
  4. Pay the required contributions to become a PhilHealth member. The minimum contribution is Php 400 (approximately $7.50), or 4% of your income.
  5. Upon registration, you will receive a PhilHealth ID that proves your eligibility for the national health insurance program in the Philippines and your right to receive healthcare.

INSIDER TIP: Expect out-of-pocket payments for PhilHealth treatments-Although PhilHealth is the primary insurance, it covers only up to a certain fixed amount of treatment costs. The remainder must be paid in cash or billed to your expat medical or Philippines insurance. This is especially true if you go to private hospitals for consultations, diagnostics, and lab tests.

I recommend foreigners purchase an international health plan for more coverage, access to private healthcare facilities, and avoid significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Example of out-of-pocket surgery cost after PhilHealth reimbursement

Best Hospitals In The Philippines

Best Public Hospitals In The Philippines

Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is the largest hospital in the Philippines and is also the country’s national referral center. It is a tertiary hospital that offers a full range of medical services, including specialized care for complex cases. PGH is also a teaching hospital and is affiliated with the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

National Children’s Hospital (NCH) is the only government-owned and operated pediatric hospital in the Philippines. It offers specialized care for children and infants with a wide range of medical conditions. NCH is also a teaching hospital and is affiliated with the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) is a tertiary hospital that offers a wide range of medical services, including specialized care for women and children. JRRMMC is also a teaching hospital and is affiliated with the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

These hospitals are all located in Metro Manila and are considered to be the premier public hospitals in the country. They offer a wide range of medical services and are staffed by highly qualified medical professionals.

Best Private Hospitals In The Philippines

Metro Manila, with the largest concentration of foreigners and wealthy Filipinos, is also the location for most of the country’s premier private hospitals. With state-of-the-art amenities, a more comprehensive patient-centric approach, and English-speaking staff, you’ll find top-notch medical services at these four major private hospitals.

  • The Asian Hospital, Las Pinas
  • Makati Medical Center, Makati
  • St. Luke’s Medical Center, Taguig City
  • The Medical City, Quezon City

24 Facts About Healthcare in the Philippines

1

Healthcare in the Philippines is a tiered system

Healthcare in the Philippines operates as a tiered system, marked by significant disparities. Affluent residents and wealthy expatriates residing in urban centers have access to high-quality healthcare services, including private hospitals and foreign-trained medical professionals.

In contrast, those in rural and economically disadvantaged areas often face limited access to adequate healthcare, experiencing healthcare issues and receiving considerably lower levels of medical care and treatment.

If you are an expat with medical conditions, you will want to live in a major city for property medical care. Only NCR (National Capital Region- Metro Manila) meets the WHO minimum of 10 doctors per 10,000 residents.

AreaNumber of Doctors per 10,000 PatientsWHO Recommend Minimum
NCR/Metro Manila10.010.0
Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR)6.010.0
llocos3.810.0
Cagayan Valley3.210.0
Central Luzon3.410.0
Calabarzon2.710.0
Mimaropa1.810.0
Bicol2.410.0
Western Visayas2.910.0
Central Visayas2.910.0
Eastern Visayas2.510.0
Zamboanga Peninsula2.510.0
Northern Mindanao2.710.0
Davao2.910.0
Soccsksargen2.310.0
Caraga2.010.0

2

The healthcare quality in the Philippines is considered to be of a high standard

Although the Philippines may not have a long-established reputation as a hub for medical expertise, it boasts a solid foundation in Western medicine thanks to its historical connections with the United States. Healthcare costs in the Philippines are generally lower than in Western countries, especially for elective procedures.

The country is recognized as a promising medical tourism destination, currently holding the 24th position out of 46 countries on the 2020 Medical Tourism Index. The availability of English-speaking doctors and nursing staff and the competitive pricing of medical services contribute to this.

According to Numbeo’s 2023 Mid-Year Global Healthcare Index, the Philippines ranks at #40, while the US ranks slightly higher at #36. This index evaluates various aspects of a country’s healthcare system, including waiting times, skill level, modern equipment, and cost.

Source: Philippines | Ranking Web of Hospitals

3

The Philippines has a universal healthcare system

In 2019, new legislation reshaped the future of PhilHealth. Then President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Bill, also known as the “UHB,” into law. Public healthcare now extends to 100% of the country’s citizens in the PhilHealth system. Previously, only those employed were covered, while informal workers and the unemployed had limited coverage. 

With the signing of the UHC Act (RA11223), all Filipinos are already automatically included under the
National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) – making PhilHealth’s coverage rate at 100%. – PhilHealth

4

The Philippines has online 24/7 Doctor Consultations available for $8 a year

Chasing convenience? Enter online doctor consultations in the Philippines, available 24/7 for a mere $8 a year. Out of necessity, medical tech proliferated in response to the pandemic’s need for remote healthcare.

Post-pandemic, remote health has been a godsend for those living away from the city or unable to make in-person visits. You get the same level of expert advice and prescriptions sans the waiting time or risk of infections from hospital visits.

Data from recent medical studies show that 70% of patients using telemedicine in the Philippines say the effectiveness is equal to or better than seeing a doctor face-to-face.

[Telemedicine is] just so much more efficient and convenient, and I feel like the doctors are not in a rush to get to the next patient, and they really try to [serve] you better over telehealth as compared to face-to-face consultations.” (Filipina, 20–24 years old)

5

A large percentage of Filipino doctors studied, trained, and work abroad

There’s a strong chance you’ve met a Filipino healthcare professional in your home country. A sizable percentage of the country’s medical workforce studied and underwent their medical training abroad, primarily in the US, UK, and Canada.

The Philippines is a well-known supplier of healthcare professionals worldwide. Filipino doctors and nurses are known for their exceptional skills, compassionate care, and strong work ethic. In fact, the International Labour Organization has recognized the Philippines as one of the world’s top sources of medical professionals.

What does it mean for you? You can expect high-quality healthcare services from well-trained and experienced professionals at a fraction of the cost you would pay in most developed countries. Plus, with English being widely spoken in the Philippines, communication between patients and healthcare providers is usually not an issue.

But there’s a downside – the healthcare system is bearing the brunt of the resulting “brain drain.”

Despite many different policy efforts to reduce the flow, in recent years still, an average of 13,000 nurses migrate very year – Netherlands Enterprise Agency

6

Pharmacies in the Philippines can be your first stop for minor health issues

Known as “drugstores” locally, they’re widespread and can provide many over-the-counter and prescription medications. But keep in mind that not all pharmacies are created equal. Some have better product selections, while others may not carry certain medications.

Look for reputable chains such as Mercury Drug and Watsons, or ask locals for their preferred pharmacy recommendations. Many pharmacies also have licensed pharmacists who can assist with minor health issues and provide over-the-counter medication.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that pharmacies in the Philippines usually have a separate section for generic medications, which are significantly cheaper than branded ones. Don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacist if they have a generic alternative for your prescribed medication.

However, keep on a look out for prices that are too good to be true. The Philippines proximity counterfiet drug manufacturers in China and India means that there is an issue with knockoff drugs.

460 pharmaceutical crime incidents took place within Southeast Asia from 2013 to 2017 …Out of these 460 incidents, 193 of which occurred in the Philippines, 110 in Thailand, 93 in Indonesia, and 49 in Vietnam. – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

7

The price for private health insurance can be as low as $100

Let’s talk numbers. My cost of private health insurance in the Philippines with $5,000,000 in coverage and a $10,000 deductible is less than $1,100 per year.

However, your cost depends on several factors: age, chosen provider, coverage area, and coverage period.

My Top 3 Recommendations For Expat Insurance In The Philippines

Cigna Global

FINANCIAL RATING:

A

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

Cigna is one of the best expat medical insurance companies in the world
  • Most popular expat medical insurance company
  • Customizable plans allowing you to pay for only the coverage you need, while offering flexible monthly rates 
  • Extensive global medical network of over 1.65 million hospitals and healthcare professionals in over 200 countries

Average Cost 

$$

Maximum Limits

$1,000,000 – Unlimited

Travel or International Medical

International Only

Ideal For- Older expats with health concerns or chronic conditions

IMG- International Medical Group

FINANCIAL RATING:

A

CUSTOMER ReVIEWS

IMG is consider the best international health insurance company's customer service
  • 25 international health insurance plans from travel medical (Patriot Plus) to international medical (IMG Global Medical)
  • Highest ranked customer satisfaction of any expat medical insurance company on the list
  • Insuring expats in 190+ countries with 800,000+ doctors and healthcare facilities worldwide

Average Cost 

$

Maximum Limits

$1,000,000 – $8,000,000

Travel or International Medical

BOTH

Ideal For- Younger expats looking for affordable overseas coverage with optional benefits

William Russell International Health Insurance Plan

Rated A+
  • Perfect for expats who need customized care and don’t visit the United States
  • Get complete coverage for inpatient care including full cancer treatments
  • Global coverage with a very strong network in SE Asia

8

US Veterans can get free healthcare at a VA Hospital in the Philippines

As an American veteran residing in the Philippines, you’re in luck. The only VA hospital outside of the United States is in Manila, Philippines. As a perk of your honorable service, the VA covers qualified healthcare services to eligible service members at the VA Hospital in Manila. From in-patient hospital care to rehabilitation to mental health services, it’s covered if the eligibility criteria are met.

You can get free VA health care for any illness or injury that we determine is connected to your military service (called a “service-connected disability”). You may also be eligible for more free VA health care based on factors like your disability rating, service history, or income.- Veterans Affairs

9

There are 3 types of medical insurance in the Philippines

Expats can avail of three main types of medical insurance coverage in the Philippines: PhilHealth, HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), and Health Insurance. Here’s a quick look at these options to better understand what they offer and how they differ.

PhilHealth– PhilHealth is the primary health insurance program in the Philippines, providing coverage for both Filipinos and foreigners residing in the country. PhilHealth’s primary purpose is financial assistance and coverage for necessary medical procedures. It’s also the most affordable option, with monthly contributions starting at around Php 400 (approximately $7.50).

HMO– HMOs are private health insurance companies that provide exclusive healthcare coverage to their members. These services usually include inpatient and outpatient medical coverage, emergency care, laboratory procedures, and specialist consultations. Additionally, this insurance type gives you access to a wide network of doctors and healthcare providers nationwide.

Private employers often provide HMOs as part of their benefits package to their employees in addition to their PhilHealth coverage. But, if your employer doesn’t offer such benefits or you’re a self-employed expat, you can still get an HMO membership individually.

The coverage limit depends on the premium paid and the plan selected. The average annual premium is Php 20,000 (approximately $350 USD). Most HMOs in the Philippines are affiliated with private hospitals, making it an attractive option for those who prefer specialized treatment.

INSIDER TIP: HMO and PhilHealth- If you’re considering getting an HMO as an individual member, it is still advisable to enroll in PhilHealth. This is because, during hospitalization, the hospital will initially bill the “PhilHealth portion,” which usually covers around 30% of the total bill, before charging the remaining balance to the patient’s HMO.

If the patient is not a PhilHealth member, they’ll be responsible for covering the PhilHealth portion of the medical bills from their pocket.

International Health Insurance– Health insurance may be the best choice for foreigners who prefer more comprehensive coverage. Unlike PhilHealth and HMOs, this option provides higher coverage limits and other benefits, like maternity care, mental health services, and cancer care. It also gives access to a wider network of hospitals, medical providers, and specialists worldwide.

Premiums for health insurance are much higher than PhilHealth and HMOs, with costs varying depending on the coverage limit, deductibles, and type of plan selected.

Expats in the Philippines commonly choose international insurance because it offers comprehensive benefits, excellent customer service, and flexibility, especially if they need to relocate or receive medical treatment in another country.

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10

Many pharmacies will need a prescription for most drugs

This isn’t Colombia or Mexico, where you can walk in off the street and get access to nearly any drug you need without a doctor’s note. In the Philippines, drug regulation is a serious business. Don’t think about heading to a pharmacy for prescription drugs without a written script from a doctor.

And remember, it should clearly specify the generic name of the drug, not just the brand. The authorities strictly observe these guidelines, ensuring pharmacies uphold the rules for safe and legal distribution.

11

The Philippines’s private health insurance system is more affordable for foreign expats

Getting additional coverage does come with a cost, but compared to American expats used to the sky-high medical costs in the US, it’s quite laughably low. And the benefits go beyond just affordability.

Private insurance lets you enjoy preferential treatment at modern private hospitals. That means shorter appointment waiting times, private rooms during hospital stays, and access to top-notch health standards. Plus, the doctors at these private facilities are bilingual and have excellent education, many of whom have graduated from prestigious medical schools or completed part of their training abroad.

12

Don’t Call 911 For Emergency Medical Services in the Philippines

There’s a 911 line in the Philippines to call the national ambulance service. However, emergency services may not be available in all areas of the country, and sometimes no one answers the call.

The lack of strict enforcement of the public emergency system results in inadequate first-aid treatment and delayed response times. Private ambulances, many of which are affiliated with private hospitals, offer faster response times, highly trained medical personnel, and advanced medical equipment.

It is important for expats to have access to contact information for private ambulance services and their nearest hospital in case of emergencies.

Another good number to know is 143, which is for the Philippine Red Cross.

INSIDER TIP: Medical Evacuation Insurance Coverage- As mentioned, most medical centers in the province are ill-equipped to handle anything besides a broken bone. If you are in a major accident or require complex life-saving medical treatment, you are going to need medical evacuation to a medical facility that can properly handle your treatment.
Emergency evacuation can get expensive. Ensure you have adequate expat coverage to avoid a financial and medical crisis.

Example of medical evacuation costs from the Philippines without insurance

13

Medicare is not accepted in the Philippines

Sorry, United States citizens. Time for a reality check: your Medicare won’t cover healthcare services in the Philippines with very few exceptions. International travel and living abroad are usually not included in the scheme. Hence, consider purchasing private health insurance or enrolling in PhilHealth, the local insurance. Your health deserves the best! So plan accordingly to save yourself from any future financial and health hassles.

Medicare usually doesn’t cover health care while you’re traveling outside the U.S.
The term “outside the U.S.” means anywhere other than the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. – Medicare.gov

14

You may be detained in a private hospital for unpaid medical bills

While it is illegal for public hospitals to detain you for non-payment, private hospitals or even private rooms in public hospitals are a different story. You need to settle your hospital bills before private hospitals in the Philippines give the green light to leave.

If you don’t pay in full. Don’t expect an easy exit; you might face detention at the hospital until your debt is cleared. So, manage your finances wisely or have a robust health insurance in place to avoid sticky situations.

15

Vision and dental coverage aren’t covered in public health services

While the public healthcare system in the Philippines covers primary medical care, it doesn’t provide coverage for vision and dental procedures.

When considering private health insurance or HMO as an individual member, it’s worth noting that vision coverage is typically not included. On the other hand, dental care is often offered as an optional add-on, which may come with an additional cost.

However, some employers may provide vision and dental care as additional benefits for their foreign employees on expat compensation packages.

16

Retired expats find it harder to get healthcare coverage

One challenge that older expats may face regarding healthcare coverage in the Philippines is age restrictions. While PhilHealth has no age limit, some HMOs and health insurance providers may have a cut-off age for enrollment. For example, the maximum enrollment age limit for HMOs is typically up to age 60 and renewable up to age 65.

However, health insurance premiums significantly increase for older expats as they age or due to the higher risk of pre-existing conditions at an advanced age.

International Health InsuranceHMOPhilHealth
Maximum Age For Insurance CoverageUp to 75Up to 65No age limit.

17

Five Hospitals in the Philippines meet best international standards for healthcare

Joint Commission International, a global organization that assesses healthcare quality and patient safety, has recognized and accredited five health care providers in the Philippines for their exceptional standards. These hospitals are among the best in the world, ensuring top-notch healthcare services for patients.

Hospital NameJCI Accreditation DateCity In The Philippines
Asian Hospital and Medical Center2013Muntinlupa City
Makati Medical Center2011Makati City
St. Luke's Medical Center - Global City2012Taguig City
St. Luke's Medical Center - Quezon City2003Quezon City
The Medical City2006Pasig City

18

You can save money by asking if your doctor also has a public hospital contract

Looking to save money on a major treatment or surgery? Ask if your doctor also has a public hospital contract. Many doctors in the Philippines practice in both public and private hospitals. You could get the same quality surgeon in a public hospital for a fraction of the cost. It might not have the frills of a private setup, but the potential savings make it an option worth considering.

19

The healthcare system in the Philippines is in a bit of upheaval

While the Philippines is known for its high-quality and affordable healthcare systems, it is worth noting that it is still undergoing changes. The government has been implementing reforms to improve access to healthcare for all citizens, including expats. This is true with the passing of the Universal Health Bill in 2019.

Not everything about the healthcare system is improving, however. Due to several factors, including the rising cost of delivering health care, poor infrastructure, and allegations of corruption in the government, the system has taken a hit in recent years. This was highlighted during the onset of COVID-19 when the Philippines had one of the longest lockdowns in the world.

The mismanagement of public hospitals, especially in rural areas, is also a significant concern. It’s common for these hospitals to have inadequate facilities and medical supplies. Moreover, the public healthcare system in the Philippines faces several challenges, which include:

Limited resources- Limited medical staff, outdated medical facilities, inadequate medical supplies, and insufficient healthcare infrastructure, especially in remote communities.

Long Wait Times- While wait times are typical in larger hospitals, they’re more prevalent in public hospitals due to the high service demand. The urgency of a patient’s condition determines the duration of the wait, which can range from hours to days before receiving medical attention or undergoing procedures.

Poor Infrastructure- In certain rural areas, public healthcare facilities lack fundamental amenities like clean water, electricity, and proper sanitation. This exposes individuals to the risk of infection and disease transmission and hampers the provision of adequate medical services.

20

Foreigners are eligible for public healthcare with a PhilHealth Policy

Eligible expatriates can enter the public healthcare system by purchasing PhilHealth coverage. PhilHealth insurance grants access to government-managed healthcare services, covering many standard treatments at an affordable rate. However, keep in mind that PhilHealth does not cover every procedure, and treatments in rural regions can be lacking.

PhilHealth annual costs for expats is:

  • Foreign Retirees with a SRRV Visa– $300 / 15,000 PHP per year
  • Foreign Nationals with an ACR-I-Card- $335 / 17,000 PHP per year

21

Your home medical insurance will not cover you in the Philippines

Keep in mind that your domestic medical insurance is unlikely to extend coverage to the Philippines. While travel insurance may offer limited emergency coverage, comprehensive coverage requires an international or local health insurance policy.

Will My Home Country Health Insurance Cover Me?

Most likely no. Most health insurance will not cover you for any injuries sustained outside your home country. To get protection while living abroad, there are two options:

  • Travel Health Insurance– This will cover you for unexpected medical issues while overseas. However, the coverage requires you to maintain insurance in the United States or your respective home country. I pay roughly $50 per month for complete coverage with no deductible.
  • Expat Medical Insurance– If you retire abroad, expat health insurance is a more complete option. Expat Medical Insurance is the “normal” insurance you are familiar with from home. Coverage is built for people who live in a country versus traveling. While more expensive than Travel Medical Insurance, premiums are still cheaper than in the US. 

22

You may be asked for cash upfront before getting medical care in the Philippines

It’s not uncommon in the Philippines to be asked for cash upfront before receiving medical care. If you find yourself in an accident and can’t communicate, the hospital may delay treatment until you can get credit card pre-approval or a family member provides payment details.

However, upfront payment is not a universal rule. Be prepared and inquire about the payment process when seeking medical care in the Philippines. Even if you are insured, prepare to pay out-of-pocket first before getting any reimbursement from your insurer. A tip: Have an emergency fund ready for such emergencies.

23

You might need a friend or helper to stay at the hospital with you

When you find yourself in a Philippine hospital, it might seem unusual, but having a friend, family member, or helper stay with you at the hospital is “normal”. Unlike a US hospital, nurses and hospital staff typically won’t provide personal care.

You will need a spouse or “hospital companion” to assist with various tasks like obtaining prescriptions, purchasing personal supplies (toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.), or bringing you food.

24

Dengue Fever and Malaria are health hazards

Expats planning on living in the rural areas in the province need to be aware of the potential health risks. Dengue fever and malaria, both mosquito-borne diseases, continue to be a persistent concern in the Philippines. There are no vaccines available for these ailments, emphasizing the importance of anti-mosquito prevention.

Dengue in particular is the #2 insurance claim in the Philippinnes.

Top PhilHealth Medical Cases 2022

Safeguard your health. Carry a mosquito net and topical repellents wherever you go. Wear protective clothing to minimize exposure when venturing outdoors.

Key Takeaway: Healthcare System in the Philippines

Healthcare in the Philippines will be just as good, if not better, than in other developing countries. It’s relatively inexpensive, and the country boasts highly skilled medical professionals.

However, the Philippine healthcare system is under strain from staffing shortages, infrastructure neglect, and lack of investment that need to be addressed. As an expat, conducting thorough research and planning for any potential healthcare needs during your stay in the Philippines is crucial.

I recommend purchasing private expat health insurance with robust medical evacuation and repatriation coverage.

FAQs: Philippine Health Care System

Can a non-Filipino get health insurance in the Philippines?

Yes! Expatriates living in the Philippines can obtain private insurance through a broker or directly approach private health insurance providers.

Alternatively, you have the option to enroll in PhilHealth. However, it’s important to note that PhilHealth only covers 20% to 30% of your medical bills, with additional costs charged for specialized procedures.

Can you use your US health insurance in the Philippines?

The coverage for international care largely varies based on your insurance plan. While some health insurance plans in the US may provide coverage for international care, verifying with your provider before making any travel plans is advisable.

Will Medicare cover me in the Philippines?

Medicare does not cover medical expenses incurred outside of the United States. As such, obtaining international or expat health insurance is necessary if you plan to live in the Philippines as a Medicare recipient.

Can I bring my prescription medication from abroad?

Foreigners with pre-existing medical conditions should carry a letter from their physician describing the condition and any prescribed medications, including the generic names of the drugs.

It’s also important to keep medications in their original containers and clearly labeled. To ensure compliance with local regulations, travelers should consult with the Philippine Embassy/Consulate regarding the legality of any required medications in the Philippines.

Does the Philippines require travel insurance?

Travel insurance is not required for entry into the Philippines. However, it’s always wise to have travel insurance when traveling abroad, as it can provide coverage for medical emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances.

Travel insurance can also offer protection against trip cancellations or delays, lost baggage, additional expenses you incur, and other travel-related mishaps.


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About the author

Hi, That's me. I'm Marco Sison. I am a survivor of the corporate rat race. I started Nomad FIRE to show you an alternative to the stress and grind of 70-hour weeks to pay off a mortgage, student loans, and countless bills. After getting laid off in 2015, I said screw it all and retired early at 41 years old. I have traveled the last eight years to over 50 countries to show you the best ways to save, invest, and live in amazing countries for 70% less cost than the US. I have been featured in: US News & World Reports, HuffPost, MSN Money, USA Today, ABC Network, Yahoo Finance, the iTunes documentary Seeking FIRE, and the Amazon Best-Seller, Abroad: Expats That Thrive. [view press...]