The tiny island of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean has become a hot destination for expatriates. Its main draw is very affordable living, often for no more than $500 per month.
This low cost of living has proven to be a huge plus for many digital nomads, such as software coders, who can work anywhere as long as they have a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection.
Add that to the stunning scenery from almost anywhere on the island, pristine beaches, and its proximity to the U.S. (about a two-hour flight from Miami), and it is easy to understand the appeal.
Of course, if you are going to relocate to the Dominican Republic, you’ll need to buy an expatriate health insurance policy before settling there. It’s important to be sure that you have comprehensive coverage for any accidents, illnesses, or injuries that may occur during your time there. Let's take a deep dive into the Dominican Republic’s public healthcare system and guide you.
The Dominican Republic Public Healthcare System – An Overview
The public healthcare system in the Dominican Republic is effective but patchy. Close to urban areas such as the capital, Santo Domingo, and tourist hotspots such as Puerto Plata, you can find adequate healthcare. But move out into the countryside, and you would find little medical care.
The healthcare system is broken into several tiers based on socio-economic status:
- Free for the poor and unemployed.
- Paid by contributions to state health insurance for the employed and businesspeople.
- Hybrid of the above two and partly subsidized for freelancers and the self-employed.
Every major town has a public hospital. Treatment is free; however, medications are either paid for by the patient or partially subsidized.
Those who require inpatient care must supply their own personal-care needs like bed sheets, pillows, and disposables. The standard of care is rudimentary. For accident & emergency situations (such as stitches) the available care is sufficient, but for more complex treatments, the capacity for adequate care is not usually up to the mark.
These centers lack advanced pathology labs and imaging equipment, two major components of modern medical treatment.
The number of patients often outnumbers the number of beds. Note that since Spanish is the official language of the Dominican Republic, it is rare to find staff members fluent in English.
Most of the doctors at public hospitals in the Dominican Republic received medical training in Cuba, which once had an excellent healthcare system that has started to lag behind. Many doctors lack an understanding of up-to-date techniques.
Public Healthcare in the Dominican Republic – Falling Behind
Public healthcare in the Dominican Republic is a brave effort by the government, and it is administered well. But the system suffers from a lack of funding, and therefore, the quality of care leaves much to be expected.
Even in major urban areas like Santo Domingo, it is difficult to secure an appointment with a specialist at a public hospital due to long waiting times.
The system leaves no one behind but can require quite extensive waiting periods. This is hardly an ideal situation for anyone with a serious or time-sensitive medical issue.
Private Healthcare in the Dominican Republic – The Silver Lining
If you’re moving to the Dominican Republic, don’t worry: There is no serious cause for concern. There are private hospitals in two main cities of Santo Domingo and Santiago.
These private-care facilities are quite excellent and offer suitable treatment. The problem is that—like private healthcare anywhere in the world—it is not cheap. If you seek care at a private facility, you can expect prices rivaling that of developed nations.
To meet this expense, you have to be covered by Dominican Republic expatriate health insurance. The private hospitals have agreements with major insurance providers and will accept a cashless settlement. This allows you to get treated without having to pay upfront and seek reimbursement from the insurance company later.
The Dominican Republic Expat Health Insurance – A Necessity You Can't Avoid
Given what we’ve discussed so far, it’s as clear as day that while it is a fantastic idea to relocate to the Dominican Republic, you must buy expat medical insurance beforehand. While the concept of medical insurance is straightforward—to cover the cost of medical treatment—some extras and riders can be hard to comprehend.
This is why we have broken down exactly what to look for in an expatriate insurance policy.
- Estimate your needs: Everyone does not need coverage for everything. If you are reasonably young and in excellent health, you probably do not need coverage for critical illnesses such as cancer. Also, if you contract such a serious illness, you are likely to return to your home country to seek treatment, anyway. Knowing what you need and buying with that in mind saves you a large amount on your premium payment.
- Policy portability: You might decide not to stay in the Dominican Republic full-time. Your work might take you to the U.S., Canada, or even Europe. You might choose to vacation in Bermuda or Barbados. Do you want to have to buy a new insurance policy every time you leave the Dominican Republic? That is a complex undertaking. For this reason, secure a policy that will work wherever you choose to visit. Your options for coverage areas include worldwide; worldwide excluding the U.S.; worldwide excluding the U.S. and Canada; and worldwide excluding the U.S., Canada, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan.
- Sub-Limits – The availability of a high coverage amount does not necessarily translate to you having all of it at your disposal at once. You can’t get whatever tests you want and occupy a top-category room. For every function—bed charges, doctors’ fees, lab tests, etc.—there may be a sub-limit, all of which add up to the sum insured. Seek a policy with higher sub-limits, which would allow you to stay in a better room while receiving treatment.
Stay Safe and Healthy With Expat Medical Insurance
It is not at all challenging to buy expatriate medical insurance. All you need to do is put in little homework and read a few policies side-by-side. Have a clear understanding of what add-ons you’ll need, and purchase a plan that offers you the best personal value for your money. A stress-free life as an expat in a tropical paradise is now yours to enjoy.