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Philippines – Healthcare

Healthcare in the Philippines is considered to be of good standard and is a mixed public and private system. It has improved vastly in the last 25 years due to reforms carried out in the public health sector and the popular private fee-for-service system. While state-of-the-art facilities may certainly be found in the urban areas, simply said, the quality of facilities do vary especially beyond urban areas.

Public and Private Healthcare for Philippine Citizens

Public or government-provided healthcare is delivered through public health and primary healthcare facilities. All Filipino citizens are entitled to free medical healthcare under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the government-owned national health insurance program.  As not all procedures are covered by PhilHealth insurance, Filipinos also purchase private insurance for greater coverage.

Private healthcare is well-established in the Philippines and is based on North American models. Independent hospitals have individual medical offices and clinics that offer services upon payment.  Majority of the Philippine hospitals are privately run, where medical services are regularly touted to be of a higher standard, and therefore at a higher price as well.  As private health insurance must be purchased, unfortunately only approximately 30% of the entire Philippine population is able to opt for it.

Additionally, Health Management Organizations (HMOs) offer a prepaid system for individuals or companies who opt for self-financed or private plans. HMOs act as liaisons between the company and the end user.

Health Insurance Available for Expats

In practice, many expats assigned to the Philippines often make use of their private insurance from their home countries as they are able to advance payment and also find the established reimbursement process simpler.

However, expats are actually eligible for PhilHealth under the Informal Economy member category once they have their work visas and Alien Certificate of Registration. PhilHealth membership helps ease the process of entering emergency rooms and admission to hospitals, although it is not mandatory.
Although there is no formal set of deductibles or co-pays with PhilHealth, healthcare providers will bill patients for the balance that their private insurance does not cover.  Until the bill is paid in full, a patient will not be allowed to leave.

Expats may also opt for either private health insurance or HMOs.
Private insurance benefits generally include: inpatient / outpatient services; hospitalization and surgical assistance; cash assistance for loss of income due to accident / illness; other ancilliary services such as laboratory tests and medication.  It offers more flexibility than HMOs.

HMOs are like private providers but they give access to certain doctors within a certain framework.

Here are currently the top health insurance companies in the Philippines:  Pacific Cross; Medicard Philippines; Insular Healthcare; Sunlife Philippines and PhilHealth.

Expats may generally find health insurance to be more affordable here than those from their home country. Due to the high-quality, relatively low-cost private healthcare system in the Philippines, medical tourism has increasingly become more popular.  Tourists should know, however, that providers expect cash upfront before they can be treated.

Hospitals in the Philippines

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Those who hold private insurance usually opt for a private hospital for faster service and better conditions.

The Top 4 Private Hospitals in Metro Manila: (Tertiary Care level)

  1. St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC)-32nd St. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
  2. Makati Medical Center (MMC)-#2 Amorsolo St, Legaspi Village, Makati City
  3. Asian Hospital and Medical Center -2205 Civic Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang Muntinlupa City
  4. The Medical City- Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City

Doctors and Specialists

Medical practitioners in the Philippines are graduates from top universities in the Philippines, many of whom have pursued further studies in US medical schools and practiced medicine overseas before sharing their expertise in the Philippines.  To find a GP, one may talk to their insurance provider, local friends or colleagues, and other expats for recommendations. It is not mandatory to make a doctor’s appointment first. Rather, one may simply show up at scheduled clinic hours to personally list their name and then be called on a first come-first served basis.  Private clinic staff members usually arrive hours before actual clinic hours to list the appointments for the day. It is best to call and find out how early you can show up to list your name for the day. As for specialists, it is fairly common to proceed directly to a specialist for any particular ailment when in the Philippines. It is not necessary to visit a regular doctor first. However, an appointment must be made to see a specialist and there is an average wait of 2 weeks to a month.

Below are average costs:

  • Doctor’s visit: from PHP500 to PHP1,500
  • Emergency room visit: PHP2,500 to PHP 3,500 excluding laboratory fees
  • One night hospital stay (regular private room): PHP2,500 to PHP4,000, excluding VAT
  • PhilHealth Insurance Premiums: PHP2,400 to PHP3,600 annually under the Informal Economy Member Plan
  • Sun Healthier Life Plan:from PHP9,900
  • Ambulance or emergency air evacuation for major medical situations if in the countryside:Up to PHP50,000

Be prepared to pay upfront in cash for every visit, screening test, and procedure especially if you have no HMO health card that offers a no cash-out program.

Other Practical Tips

  • Bring your complete medical history and extra medication with you. In practice, local doctors do not request for them from your previous physician abroad.
  • Bring a reasonable amount of extra medication with you. It is recommended to hold a doctor’s certificate stating the ailment requiring said medication. Excessive quantities will be flagged at airport customs.
  • Be sure to verify the differences between HMOs; Health Insurance; and Medical Insurance.Some providers offer a combination of choices depending on your needs.
  • In case of hospital confinement in the Philippines, have your spouse; family member; or a friend to help you. Hospitals with private rooms allow a companion to assist with getting prescriptions; buying pharmacy items or other toiletries; walking towards the toilet; etc. Companions may stay inside the private room 24/7 for most patients.

If moving to the Philippines professionally, it is highly recommended to speak beforehand with your employer about a private health insurance policy. Something crucial to consider is also whether such insurance will be purchased from your home country; or from the Philippines. Either way, enrolment and policy details must be checked directly with private health insurers.

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