Healthcare in the Philippines is a mixed public and private system and is considered to be of good standard.
While healthcare has vastly improved in the last 25 years due to reforms carried out in the public health sector and the popular private fee-for-service system, additional government issuances were issued over the past two years to further improve the country’s health care system and patient care.
State-of-the-art facilities can certainly be found in large cities, but the quality of facilities does vary, especially in less 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 the country slowly migrates to the Universal Health Care System (please see Latest Government Issuances), Filipinos can 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.
Over half of Philippine hospitals, where medical services are regularly touted to be of a higher standard, are private and are also more expensive. As private health insurance must be purchased, only about 30% of the entire Philippine population can afford 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
Many expats assigned to the Philippines make use of private insurance from their home countries as the insurance companies can make advanced payments to the hospitals and also the reimbursement process is simpler.
However, expats are 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.
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 network.
Currently, the top health insurance companies in the Philippines are: Pacific Cross; Medicard Philippines; Insular Healthcare; Sunlife Philippines, and PhilHealth.
Expats may find health insurance to be more affordable in the Philippines than in 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
Those who hold private insurance usually opt for a private hospital for faster service and better conditions.
- St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) - 32nd St. Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
- Makati Medical Center (MMC) - #2 Amorsolo St, Legaspi Village, Makati City
- Asian Hospital and Medical Center - 2205 Civic Drive, Filinvest Corporate City, Alabang Muntinlupa City
- The Medical City - Ortigas Avenue, Pasig City
Doctors and Specialists
Medical practitioners in the Philippines are graduates from top universities in the Philippines.
Many have pursued further studies in the United States or other countries and have practiced medicine overseas before returning to 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 and, for some doctors, it is not possible. Rather, one may simply show up at scheduled clinic hours to personally list their name and then will be called on a first come, first served basis. Private clinic staff members usually arrive hours before actual clinic hours start to schedule the appointment list for the day. It is best to call and find out how early you can show up to list your name. To see a specialist doctor, it is fairly common to proceed directly to a specialist. It is not necessary to visit a regular doctor first. However, an appointment often must be made to see a specialist and there is an average wait of two weeks to a month.
Below are average medical costs:
- Doctor’s visit: PHP500 to PHP1,500
- Emergency room visit: PHP3,000 to PHP 4,500 excluding laboratory fees
- One night hospital stay (regular private room): PHP3,500 to PHP5,000, excluding VAT
- PhilHealth Insurance Premiums: PHP300 per month or PHP3,600 annually under the Informal Economy Member Plan
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. Some hospitals and most pharmacies will take credit cards, but individual doctor offices rarely accept credit card.
Other Practical Tips
- Bring your complete medical history with you. In practice, local doctors do not request them from your previous physician abroad but it is best to have them, especially for children or if you or family members have had previous medical issues.
- Always travel with updated vaccination records.
- Bring a reasonable amount of extra medication with you to the Philippines as medications are not always available. 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 available to help you. Hospitals with private rooms allow a companion to assist with getting prescriptions, buying pharmacy items or other toiletries, walking to the toilet, etc. Companions may stay inside a private room 24/7 for most patients.
- Understand that hospital support staff may play a different role than in your home country. For example, nurses often serve more as assistants than as medical professionals capable of executing medical decisions without first consulting with a doctor.
- Expect to go to multiple pharmacies to fill a prescription list from a doctor. It is helpful to ask a doctor for a substitute medication, particularly for over-the-counter medications, in case the one recommended is not available.
If moving to the Philippines for a job, 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, enrollment and policy details must be checked directly with private health insurers. You may also want to consult with private hospitals to find out which insurance providers they have agreements with for direct billing.
Latest Philippine Government Issuances:
Republic Act No 11223 (Universal Health Care or UHC Bill)
Republic Act No 11223 (Universal Health Care or UHC Bill) was signed into law in year 2019. It is an Act which entitles every Filipino citizen to health coverage that will lower out-of-the-pocket health expenses.
The Filipinos are classified under “Direct” contributors (those who pay PhilHealth premiums, are employed and bound by an "employer-employee relationship," self-earning, professional practitioners, and migrant workers. Members’ qualified dependents and lifetime members are also included) and “Indirect” contributors (those not considered as direct contributors, along with their qualified dependents, whose health premiums are subsidized by the government), citizens will be granted “immediate eligibility” and access to the full spectrum of health care which includes preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative care. This can be expected for medical, dental, mental, and emergency health services.
Filipinos will also be enrolled with a primary health care provider of their choice. The primary care provider is the health worker they can go and seek treatment from for health concerns. They will also serve as the person in charge of referring and coordinating with other health centers if patients need further treatment.
While Filipinos can already expect to avail of some of the law’s benefits, full effects of the law will be gradually felt as the country’s health department and PhilHealth start transitioning to the universal health care system.
But is it totally free? The answer is “no” as the government only commits to basic service accommodations under the “essential health benefit package,” which includes primary care, medicines, diagnostic, and laboratory tests. It also includes preventive, curative, and rehabilitative services.
Filipinos living in and under the poverty line or those who are located in geographically isolated areas will also be given priority when ensuring access to health services.
Republic Act No. 9439
An act prohibiting the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of nonpayment of hospital bills or medical expenses.
- Filipino Doctors: http://filipinodoctors.org/
- PhilHealth: https://www.philhealth.gov.ph/
- DOH hospitals: https://www.doh.gov.ph/doh-hospitals-directory
- Private Hospitals Association of the Phils: http://www.phap-ph.org/
Last update: 12 March 2020