Our Ecuador Healthcare Experience

Before our recent hospital visit, we did not have in-depth personal experience with the Ecuador healthcare system. We know Ecuador has one of the best healthcare services globally, so we expected something nice. Pleasantly, our expectations were exceeded. The quality was so great that their affordable cost was almost shocking.

I met the doctor for a series of medical checkups and blood tests. Actually, I met four doctors and had three medical procedures and several lab tests.

I have a family history of colon and prostate cancer, so I need to check in with a doctor regularly. The tests are scheduled every 5 years, but I was already 2 years overdue for this one due to the COVID pandemic. I finally got tested and while the news is not exactly great, we are optimistic.

There are many good things to take away from our experience with Ecuador’s healthcare, and we will walk you through them in this article.

Ecuador Health Insurance Brokers

Ecuador’s health insurance system differs from the United States so we had many questions, which were answered by our private insurance broker, Maurice Miranda.

As we found out from Maurice, there is a remarkable difference between insurance brokers in Ecuador and those in the United States. He was very interested in getting us the right doctor and was heavily involved in scheduling appointments.

First Appointment

Our first appointment was at a private health institution. The facilities were impressive and looked much better than the few public hospitals we had formerly visited.

We didn’t know we were supposed to make payments at a machine before we could meet the doctor. Different systems clearly. Thankfully, our kind Doctor didn’t have any problem with our manners (Pun intended) and accepted direct payment from us.

Our doctor was amazing. She spoke and understood fluent English, missing only a few words, which was not a big deal as we understood the small Spanish inputs she used as substitutes.

She ran some vital checks and discovered my blood pressure was quite off the roof, which we all agreed was due to me being nervous. I was over two years past my checkup schedule, so I was a little anxious.

After the blood pressure check, I was expecting to fill out my family health history and information in a 14-page book, just like in the US, but that wasn’t the case. It was easier. Ecuador doctors use computers to collect all necessary info about your medical and family history. They ask the questions and you answer. I prefer this pattern as I really communicated and connected with my doctor. I expressed how I felt about my genetic vulnerability to prostate cancer and the toll of dealing with an over 50-year-old prostate which made urinating difficult.

Our doctor was great, empathetic, and very caring. She listened to my concerns and gave me a prescription to help in the bathroom. She ordered some bloodwork, a Colonoscopy and a Sonogram to ensure I didn’t have any other more obvious problem with my prostate.

She spent about 45 minutes to an hour with us. The total fee for the appointment was $15. We have private insurance with Confiamed this fee was our copay.
Our doctor directed us to get the bloodwork out of the way as soon as possible.

Bloodwork Test

The doctors in charge of the bloodwork asked all the necessary questions regarding our diet. My wife and I generally maintain a whole-foods plant-based diet to keep my cholesterol at a safe level, so our diet was good.

They ran lots of tests, including checks on cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood sugar, nutrient levels, PSA, parasites, and many other conditions.

The bloodwork was very comprehensive, as the specialists didn’t want to miss anything. About 5 to 6 blood vials were extracted, and I bet I looked a lighter shade of white when we left the hospital.

The entire cost was $188 for about 2 pages worth of tests, which was very affordable for a privately funded hospital. Our insurance covered 90% of the cost, so we paid $18.

The bloodwork results were out in no time, and the major concern was my high PSA and a low Free PSA, both bad. The good news was that the parasite test came out negative. The Sonogram test was next on the list.

Sonogram

It took us three days to get an appointment for the Sonogram. The doctor ran some tests and checked my prostate, bladder, kidneys, gallbladder, pancreas, and liver to see if anything was out of place. This check was as comprehensive as my bloodwork, and I think the doctor wanted to get a holistic view of my system because I complained of abdominal pain.

The Sonogram result was not very comforting. My prostate was 2.5 times larger than normal, which was worrying. The cost for the Sonogram was $80, with insurance responsible for 90% of that.

Now, it would be nice to mention something special about Ecuador’s healthcare. Every patient gets a unique medical record. So once I complete a test, the result is uploaded to my medical record.

A new doctor handling my case can just check my record and know the step forward. It is so easy and seamless.

Colonoscopy

The Colonoscopy test was the next on our list. When we went to make the appointment, they had openings the next day, but I wanted more time to prepare, physically and mentally.

On the day of the exam, my appointment was at 11:30AM and we were on our way home at 12:45PM. The result was excellent—no evidence of swollen tissues and no sign of cancer or polyps.

The only thing I didn’t appreciate was that the anesthetic made me sick. They used Propofol, which I’ve had several times without issues. But this time it caused a reaction.

Amelia got really scared when I passed out in the taxi on the way home. When I woke up, we were on our way back to the hospital, but I told her I just wanted to go home and go to bed.

The entire cost for the colonoscopy was $305 and insurance covers 90%.

Return to Our First Doctor for Result Review

We returned to our doctor after completing the three tests she recommended. She reviewed the results and was very comforting all through our one-hour session. Her major concern was about the situation with my prostate. She referred us to a urologist for better insight so we knew what we were dealing with. The fee was a $15 Copay.

The Urologist

The urologist didn’t speak English so it was more difficult to communicate with him. He was concerned about my family history of prostate cancer and made it clear that my PSA numbers and larger-than-normal prostate hinted that I might have a problem.

He called the imaging center right then to get the name of the doctor who runs the MRI. After the call, he recommended I schedule the MRI ASAP. We spent about 10 minutes with the him for a $15 Copay.

Contrast MRI

After leaving the Urologist’s office, we messaged Maurice about the new development, and he scheduled an appointment the next day for a Contrast MRI. That’s right: the very next day!

A Doctor conducted the MRI, and she did the IV for the contrast. All necessary protocols were followed, highlighting how advanced the Ecuador health system is. I wore the noise-canceling headphones which the doctor spoke through when I was in the MRI.

The MRI was not the most comfortable place, and it felt like it wasn’t designed for an adult. My shoulders got cramped, and my arms were asleep for most of the time. Apart from that, everything was good.

The MRI results were out in 3 days. Another surprise. In the US, getting an MRI result could take weeks and even months.

The total cost for the MRI was $320 before insurance, which is quite affordable. The insurance handles 80% of the charge.

The Result and Meeting the Oncologist

The MRI result was a one-page report written in Spanish. I translated the words into English and could make sense of them to understand there were two spots on my prostate. That was clearly not good. It seemed like one of the two spots was likely cancer.

I messaged Maurice again and asked him to find me an English-speaking Oncologist, and he quickly set an appointment for the next day. Good luck finding such quick service in the US.

We met with the Oncologist for over an hour, and he explained the results and concerns. There were two spots in my prostate. One looked normal, while the other was likely cancer, but it was still very small to confirm.

The Oncologist explained that if it was cancer, it could be treated since it was spotted early. He ordered another PSA test with strict preparation specifications for the best reading. He also requested I get another Contrast MRI in 3 months for a better evaluation of the spots in my prostate.

The entire cost was $50 before insurance. We couldn’t get a Copay benefit since he is out-of-network. The insurance company will reimburse 80%.

The Revelation

It is never great to hear you probably have cancer, but we’re optimistic and happy we spotted it early. If it is cancer, it’s still small and treatable, and stats show that the survival rate at this stage is very high.

We’re still hopeful that the two spots are NOT cancer. We’ll know more after the next PSA test and MRI, but for now, we will definitely continue to live our best lives.

Total Costs

  • 3 Dr visit copays: $45
  • Oncologist out of network: $50
  • Bloodwork: $188
  • Sonogram: $80
  • Colonoscopy: $305
  • Contrast MRI: $320

Total cost before insurance: $988

Insurance Cost: $192/month for both – $15 copay, $100 annual deductible, 90% covered in-network, 80% covered out-of-network.

Insurance Reimbursements

  • $573 in-network – 90% back or $515
  • $370 out-of-network – 80% back or $296
  • $811 – $100 deductible = $711 back

Total out-of-pocket cost: $277

So insurance saved us from spending an outright $988, and instead, we only payed $277.

Clearly, in the US, we would have spent thousands of dollars even if we had insurance. Ecuador is significantly cheaper despite also having state of the art facilities.

Insurance Reimbursement Process

If you live in Ecuador, you will need private insurance to apply for your visa. However, the process may be a bit confusing, so a huge thanks to our insurance broker, Maurice, for helping us! We couldn’t have done it without him!

Documents You Need

  • Insurance Claim Form – Signed and stamped by the Doctor
  • Pedidos – Orders for the procedures
  • Facturas – Receipts with the RUC (hospital tax ID)
  • Resultados – All of the results and images from the procedures

You also need a bank account with the account holder’s name on it for your insurance claim reinbursement. I Had to open a new bank account in my name to get the reimbursement.

Our Take On Ecuador Health Care System

CEO World currently ranks the country’s health system at number 25, and we personally agree with this number due to the quality of service we received.

The country’s use of medical technology is impressive. We noticed that every institution we visited made a deliberate effort to make every medical session efficient and effective. For example, I did not have to write out my family history. I instead spoke about them while the attending doctor typed them. This option was more effective from a patient perspective, because I could easily relate with the doctor who clearly seemed to understand me.

The availability of a digital medical record was also very impressive. The results of every test I took gets updated on my medical record, and the new doctor only needs to check the record to know my health status. It was seamless and fast and saved me the pain of having to keep repeating the same information every time.

Another important part of our experience was the affordability of the tests. Everything was very affordable, and we are talking about the prices even before insurance. The entire cost before insurance was below the $1000 mark. In the United States, we would have doled out a few thousand dollars to get the same treatment.

Our verdict on the Ecuador healthcare system based on personal experience is that it is superb. We are even happier we moved to Ecuador following this experience!


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