Health insurance for expats in the Philippines
In any population, healthcare is very important. Healthcare directly affects the quality of life, thus we must invest in good healthcare to ensure our well-being. The healthcare sector is composed of the healthcare providers (e.g. medical professionals, hospitals, clinics), manufacturers of drugs (pharmaceutical companies) and medical equipment, and the health insurance providers.
High-quality healthcare can only be achieved through continuous improvement of health services and facilities, adequate deployment of healthcare professionals, and increased health insurance coverage.
The healthcare status in the Philippines
The Philippine population is currently at 93.4 million according to the 2010 Census of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Ninety-three percent (93%) of the population are covered by social health insurance (PhilHealth). PhilHealth was created in accordance to the Republic Act 7875, which is the National Health Insurance Act of 1995. PhilHealth subsidizes most health procedures and treatments done in public and private hospitals.
Around 40% of Philippine hospitals are public, highly outnumbered by privately-owned hospitals. Unfortunately, there are still existing problems in public healthcare which the government is still trying to address, such as the lack of sufficient healthcare professionals, medical equipment, and infrastructure. The public healthcare sector is struggling but is certainly improving one step at a time.
Since private healthcare has better quality than public healthcare, rich and middle-class Filipinos tend to choose the former. Poorer Filipinos choose public hospitals due to affordability (e.g. no consultation fees, lower fees for surgeries). Interestingly, private healthcare accounts for two-thirds of the total healthcare spending. Also, most of the health expenditures comes from out-of-pocket sources (from the citizens’ own income, savings, etc).
Compared to private healthcare, public healthcare is quite slow in responding to healthcare demands and is yet to achieve services similar to the level of private healthcare due to the lack of funds, thus most Filipinos prefer getting private healthcare if possible. Fortunately, private healthcare providers are able to evolve and respond to the rising healthcare demands.
Only 2% of Filipinos have private health insurance. On the other hand, four million Filipinos have Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) health insurance plans (which is similar to a private health insurance but health services are limited) since most companies offer this type of health insurance to their employees as part of their job benefit. Private health insurance and HMO health insurance are very helpful for healthcare payments because PhilHealth only covers a fraction of the total cost of medical services.
Recommended private hospitals for expats in the Philippines
Although public hospitals in the Philippines may not be at par with Western healthcare, the private healthcare sector is sufficiently equipped. Hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) offer high-quality medical services and are highly recommended for expats, such as:
- The Medical City (Pasig City)
- St. Luke’s Hospital (Taguig City)
Fees and charges in these hospitals are generally higher than most private hospitals.
Here are other excellent private hospitals in the NCR:
- World Citi Medical Center (Quezon City)
- Cardinal Santos Medical Center (San Juan)
- UST Hospital (Manila)
- Manila Doctors Hospital (Manila)
- Metropolitan Medical Center (Manila)
- Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (Manila)
These are just a few of the recommended hospitals which you can visit and receive good quality healthcare. Fees in these hospitals are also lower and more affordable compared to The Medical City and St. Luke’s Hospital.
If you do not want to worry about paying for healthcare fees, availing of private health insurance is highly recommended, most especially for expats such as yourself.
Private health insurance for expats in the Philippines
This type of health insurance is offered by private insurance companies, not by the government. It has a more comprehensive medical network compared to Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) health insurance. In contrast to HMO, private health insurance is purchased voluntarily This type of health insurance is offered by private insurance companies, not by the government. It has a more comprehensive medical network compared to Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) health insurance. In contrast to HMO, private health insurance is purchased voluntarily and premiums are higher. Companies usually offer two types: private health insurance (local coverage only) or private international health insurance (local and international coverage). Private health insurance typically offers the following: inpatient and outpatient services, consultations, hospitalization, surgeries, cash assistance for accidents/loss of income, laboratory tests (e.g. urine and stool analysis, x-rays, research facility tests, ECG, physical exams and others), and medication. It offers bigger compensation since it charges higher premiums than HMOs. Also, there is no need to renew this type of plan and the age of coverage varies (e.g. 0-100 years old, 16-75 years old). Here are some of the companies offering private health insurance:
- Asia Health
- Prudential Life
- Sun Life
- Philam Life
- Insular Life
- Aetna International
- Cigna Global
Advantages of having private health insurance (local and/or international coverage)
A private health insurance plan covers most or all of your medical needs, but charges higher fees than other health insurance plans (such as PhilHealth and HMOs). The advantage is that this type offers more benefits than the other plans and has wider age coverage.
If you travel a lot, getting the private international health insurance is highly beneficial. Companies such as Aetna International, Cigna Global and Asia Health Philippines Health Insurance offer private international health insurance coverage. This is very convenient since you do not need to buy health insurance every time you visit another country. Some of these plans allow you to choose the countries that will be covered by health insurance.
Here are some tips to help you decide on the best health insurance plan:
1. Researching on the Internet would be the best way to start if you do not know any company offering health insurance. If you do have some ideas, this step will help you discover other options. In this step, you will have to decide if you need the usual private health insurance (local coverage) or the international insurance. Keep this in mind while doing your research.
2. Browse company websites; pertinent information on private health insurance plans are commonly listed there. It is also important to note that some companies offer different health insurance plans thus it would be best to check them all out. Also, check if the insurance company is legitimate and trustworthy.
3. Talk to an insurance agent so you can clarify things and ask questions.
4. Compare each plan in terms of benefits and disadvantages.
5. Narrow down your options by excluding plans that are not possible for your situation (e.g. huge premiums, short-term coverage) or does not satisfy you in terms of benefits.
6. Choose the health insurance plan that you will most likely utilize. Although spending extra for health plans is certainly worth it (for present or future use), it is still important to stick with a plan that you can afford and includes the necessary benefits.