A health emergency can arise when you are least prepared. Add that to being in a new country with an unfamiliar healthcare system, and it’s understandable that, as an expatriate, you could be a bit clueless about how to seek medical treatment—and how to pay for it.
Apart from understanding the country’s healthcare system, you also need a robust expatriate health insurance plan to protect you against any unexpected illnesses, injuries, or accidents that might occur. Expat health insurance ensures you have the right coverage and access to health and medical services in your new country when needed.
Healthcare System in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest Central American country, known as the “land of lakes and volcanoes.” Nicaragua is a top destination for expats thanks to its diverse landscapes, cultures, tropical climate, and growing economy.
Healthcare in Nicaragua is:
- Affordable: The costs incurred for treatment in Nicaragua are comparatively lower, which makes healthcare extremely affordable.
- High-quality: Modern facilities are available in Nicaraguan hospitals and clinics. You are assured high-quality diagnoses and treatment services.
- Adaptable: The healthcare system offers flexibility with a range of health insurance options.
Nicaragua carries out the delivery of health services through a two-tier healthcare system:
- Public healthcare system: A network of military and civilian health centers and hospitals
- Private healthcare system: Includes independent physicians, hospitals, and clinics
Public Healthcare System in Nicaragua
The public healthcare system currently follows a decentralized model that consists of three distinct administrative levels for different health services.
- Level 1—The Central Level: Controlled by the Ministry of Health (MINSA)
- Level 2—The SILAS (Local Systems of Comprehensive Care): An intermediate unit between the central administration and healthcare provider establishments
- Level 3: The Municipal Level
The Ministry of Health (MINSA) is the main healthcare provider and responsible for managing health on the national level. MINSA’s mission is to provide free and universal healthcare services to its citizens. MINSA offers primary and secondary levels of care through its health service networks. The first level of care consists of health posts and health centers, while the second level includes hospitals and clinics.
Nicaragua also has a mandatory contribution system known as Instituto Nicaragüense de Seguridad Social (INSS), or the Nicaraguan Social Security Institute. Salaried workers are required to enroll in INSS. INSS provides its beneficiaries and their dependents with a predefined package of services through a network of Medical Service Provider Corporations (EMPs), as well as public and private healthcare providers.
Nicaragua is split into departments, similar to states within a country. Each department has one public hospital along with several clinics.
Emergency services are free of cost at public hospitals for both locals and foreigners, but upfront payment for medications and supplies is expected.
With the majority of the population being covered by MINSA, the waiting time is longer at public hospitals.
Private Healthcare System
The private healthcare system in Nicaragua is run by non-governmental organizations and health insurance companies.
The private healthcare system operates at two levels:
- The profit-making private healthcare system includes various hospitals and social security medical enterprises.
- The non-profit private healthcare system consists of health centers (managed by NGOs and churches) and medical brigades that come from abroad to provide medical services to the neediest populations.
Private hospitals also offer health insurance plans. Based on your age and any pre-existing conditions, you can pay an annual fee that allows you discounts on hospital stays, surgery, and prescriptions.
For the majority of locals, private healthcare is unaffordable. The locals depend heavily on the public healthcare system. However, for expats, private healthcare tends to be fairly inexpensive and accessible. Although Nicaragua’s economy is growing, there can still be certain specialized treatments that cannot be accommodated even in the country’s best hospitals. Hence, if you’re an expatriate living in Nicaragua, you need an expat health insurance plan in case you are faced with such a circumstance.
Expat Health Insurance in Nicaragua
Most medical staff in public hospitals and local clinics speak only Spanish. Private hospitals do have English-speaking staff, but that does not guarantee their level of competency. As an expat in Nicaragua, you need to know Spanish in order to explain your symptoms accurately. Such differences are part of the challenge that comes with moving to a new country. Therefore, buying expat health insurance will ensure you have the right coverage with the best network of healthcare service providers—including translation services and access to English-speaking staff.
Expat health insurance plans can be tailored to your requirements. You can choose as much or as little coverage as you think you’ll need, depending on various health-based factors. Expat health insurance is a great way to save financial costs incurred on treatments, prescription drugs, and check-ups.
Consider the following when buying expat health insurance:
Define your medical needs: This is the most crucial step in selecting the health insurance plan. Determining the needs will prepare you for the costs associated with each need. For example, if you’re young, you probably won’t need coverage for serious conditions like strokes or cancer.
Geographical coverage: If you want coverage beyond Nicaragua, the price of your health insurance plan depends on whether you want a regional or global coverage. If you have plans to tour the continent while you’re there, or if you have to travel for work, you can choose a single plan that will provide coverage wherever you are in the world.
Policy Limits: Make sure that you have the maximum coverage under the plan you choose. Medical coverage may or may not include benefits for services like:
- Dental treatments
- Pregnancy and delivery
- Outpatient medical treatment
- Inpatient medical treatment
- Medical assistance
- Congenital medical conditions
- Preventive medical check-ups
- Pharmaceutical products, bandages, and remedies
- Patient transport, return transport, and transfers
Expat health insurance also may provide non-medical coverage for situations like security and political evacuation, natural disaster evacuation and accommodation, and income protection.
Let the adventure begin…
Ensure you have an effective expat health insurance plan for your time in Nicaragua. Compare plans, browse any additional add-ons, and purchase a plan that best fits your own personal needs.
New food, a new language, and a new culture. Living and working in Nicaragua will bring many adventures in your life. Don’t let navigating the healthcare system blind be one of them. While buying expat health insurance may not be as exciting as buying plane tickets, it’s imperative to have that peace of mind when in a new country.