Healthcare in the Philippines: A guide to the Filipino healthcare system

28.09.17
6 minute read
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With 17,500km of coastline and over 7,000 islands, the Philippines is a popular destination for those considering a relocation. Before you take the leap, you should consider all the facts, including the country’s healthcare. The healthcare standards in the Philippines are considered to be good, especially due to reforms undergone in the public health sector over the last 25 years, and the popular private fee-for-service system. This article will review the facts about the Filipino healthcare system, and give you options on public and private plans to help you with your visit or relocation to the Philippines.

Quick facts on the healthcare system in The Philippines

Money in the Philippines is denominated in Philippine Peso, which can be written as PHP or simply ₱.

  • Public, private or universal healthcare: A mixed public-private system
  • Average cost of an emergency room visit: ₱2,500
  • Average cost of a doctor’s visit: ₱500
  • Number of pharmacies: over 20,000
  • Number of hospitals: 1,800
  • Population % covered by health insurance: 100%

It’s always hard to estimate exactly what your home currency is worth as currency exchange rates constantly fluctuate. The good news is that for up to date figures, you can use an online currency converter to check what your money’s currently worth.

At the time of writing, these are the very approximate figures you can expect to find:

  • ₱1000 = £15
  • ₱1000 = €16
  • ₱1000 = US$20
  • ₱1000 = AU$ 25

Average cost of healthcare in the Philippines

Is healthcare free in the Philippines?

All citizens are entitled to free healthcare under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)

To give you a general idea of the Filipino medical bills you’ll run into, here are some costs for healthcare items in the Philippines:

Healthcare Item Average Cost in the Philippines
PhilHealth insurance plan ₱2,400 - ₱3,600
One-night hospital stay ₱2,500
Emergency room visit ₱2,500
Doctor’s office visit ₱500

To help manage overseas costs if you’re an expat stuck with unexpected medical bills, consider signing up for a TransferWise Borderless account. You can hold your money in nearly 30 different currencies and pay out to the Philippines in pesos when you need it the most. All fees are fair and clearly explained, and your money will be converted into PHP at the real exchange rate - the same one you find on Google. And because TransferWise sends money only from local bank accounts in each country it supports, those normal international SWIFT fees you get charged with international bank transfers are cut out completely.

Filipino medical system: Public, private, universal, national, state, single payer - which is it?

The Philippines has a public medical system with the option to either choose free, government-provided healthcare or purchase private healthcare from your own pocket.

The Filipino state healthcare system

The public healthcare system is delivered through public health and primary healthcare centres linked to peripheral barangay (local town) health centres. Around 40% of the hospitals in the Philippines are public. Doctors at public hospitals in the Philippines are well-trained, but there are still a number that say the technology and equipment used at public hospitals isn’t as good as private ones. So you’ll have to make sure to ask around from your local contacts to get their opinion before you choose the hospital that’s right for you.

The Filipino private healthcare system

The private health sector caters to 30% of the population and is based on North American medical models. If private is the route you’ll take, you’ll be glad to find out that it’s not only widely available in major cities, but actually a majority of hospitals in the Philippines are privately run. Medical services in private hospitals are frequently touted to be held to a higher standard, but that also means it comes at a higher price. Expats may find private health insurance plans are more affordable than those from their home country. The high-quality, low-cost private healthcare system has put the Philippines on the map not only for medical tourism, but even permanent relocation. But even if you’ll just be visiting there for a short while, you’ll need to know that providers expect cash upfront before you can be treated.

Signing up for the healthcare system in the Philippines

To sign up for healthcare in the Philippines, follow these steps:

  • Get your insurance plan from PhilHealth or another provider
  • Find a local doctor and visit during clinic hours
  • Register ahead of time at your local hospital to ensure you get the care you need when you need it

In case of an emergency in the Philippines

In case of an emergency in the Philippines you can dial 911, like many Americans are already used to doing. Emergency ICU (Intensive Care Unit) care is usually comparable to what you’d find at other high quality international providers. If you’re out in the countryside when complex trauma or a major medical emergency strikes, you could require evacuation to a better-equipped hospital in the Philippines. And be prepared for this part to get a bit pricey. The cost for an ambulance or emergency air evacuation could be up to ₱50,000.

Hospitals in the Philippines

Once you have your insurance plan set up, you can use the Department of Health’s list of hospitals to help you find the best one for you. Those with private insurance may prefer a private hospital, which many consider to have a faster service and better conditions. However, these conditions may be expensive and you won’t be allowed to leave until you’ve paid the full bill. The average price for an overnight hospital stay is around ₱2,500.

Doctors and specialists in the Philippines

Local medical staff are well trained, especially in big cities. Many doctors have studied in top universities and practiced medicine overseas, and speak English.

Finding a GP / family doctor in the Philippines

You can register for a doctor locally. Visit the Department of Health’s website or use this list of authorised medical facilities to help you. You can also talk to your insurance provider, local friends or other expats for recommendations. You don’t need to make an appointment with a doctor there first. Instead, simply show up during their scheduled clinic hours where you’ll normally be seen within an hour. You may have a longer wait time at public clinics and hospitals compared to private facilities, but if you call to make an appointment, you may have to wait a few weeks.

Specialists in the Philippines

It’s a fairly common practice to go directly to a specialist for any particular ailment when you’re in the Philippines. You don’t need to visit a regular doctor first and an office visit to see a specialist costs around ₱1,000. You’ll need to make an appointment for these, though, and be prepared to wait an average of 2 weeks to a month.

Health insurance in the Philippines: Cost and plans

If you’re an expat or tourist visiting the Philippines, you must have a health insurance plan. Many expats in the Philippines choose to join PhilHealth under the Informal Economy member-category which will be approximately ₱2,400 - ₱3,600 per year. There are also private insurance options like Pacific Cross. However, these plans are often more expensive, especially if you’re older or have previously existing conditions.

If you’re a foreigner, you can purchase a short-term health insurance policy from a provider of your choice.

Temporary health insurance for tourists

These private health insurance companies that can provide you with temporary or long term plans if you’re in need:

This national public insurance can provide you with a longer term plan:

Useful medical phrases in the Philippines

Medical term Filipino translation
Accident Aksidente
Ambulance Ambulansya
Broken bone Sirang buto
Dentist Dentista
Doctor Doktor
Emergency Emergency
Heart attack Atake sa puso
Hospital Ospital
Medical bill Medikal na singil
Medical insurance Medical insurance
Pharmacy Parmasya
Prescription Reseta
Stroke Stroke

Useful links

If you’re still at a bit of a loss, there’s more help. Check out the following sites:

With quality and affordable healthcare, plus highly trained doctors, the Philippines is a great choice if you’re considering relocation.

Make sure you follow this guide to help you setup your healthcare needs!

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