Ready to move to Paraguay? Bordered by Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina, this small country is largely unknown to most expats. And yet, this unique land, between the Atlantic forest and the semi-arid land of the Chaco, is the beat of Latin America’s heart. Sophisticated and authentic, traditional, and multicultural, this Amerindian jewel is a natural paradise for both retired and working expatriates — with its peaceful atmosphere, low-cost of living and breathtaking scenery, you need not look far for that extra appeal!
When it comes to important matters such healthcare, here’s what to expect…
An overview of Paraguay’s healthcare system
Paraguay is a relatively poor country and government health expenditure is generally low. In 2019, health spending barely equaled $388 per capita. Although the government has recently made efforts to improve the quality of health services and access to the health system, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, Paraguay’s healthcare spending is only just 3% of its overall GDP in 2017. In other words, Paraguayans do not have access to proper health coverage.
Healthcare quality and accessibility: disparities between large cities and rural areas
Paraguay’s health system is highly fragmented. There are significant disparities between big cities like Asunción and rural areas. In fact, 70% of medical staff work in the capital. While it is possible to receive proper treatment in Asunción, access to health services outside the major cities is difficult, precarious, and limited.
Paraguayans and permanent residents in Paraguay are eligible for social security coverage funded by employee contributions and have access to medical services in public hospitals. Many citizens do not have access to public healthcare either because they live in remote rural areas or simply because they are not formally employees.
While doctor’s visits are completely free, this is not the case for medicines and hospitalisation, which can be quite expensive and inaccessible to the poorest.
Public health practitioners work in fixed medical facilities, either hospitals or local health clinics.
In general, the quality of care in public health facilities is not up to European or North American standards. Hospitals face major problems on a daily basis, including overcrowding due to shortages of medical staff (12.3 doctors per 10,000 inhabitants and 17.9 nurses per 10,000 inhabitants), which results in inefficient care and long waiting times. In addition, most public health facilities are equipped with ageing medical equipment and often experience bed shortages.
While expatriates can access public medical facilities, most choose private hospitals as the quality of care and medical facilities is generally much better than in the public sector. Services are better funded and provided for in private hospitals, clinics and practices.
The best facilities are based in the capital, Asunción. Medical services offered in private health facilities can be expensive; so, it is essential for expats to be well-covered with international health insurance.
There are some local private companies that provide health insurance solutions. In fact, some private clinics and hospitals in Asunción offer their patients insurance policies that cover costs in their facilities, but it is still recommended to be protected by international health insurance for expatriates in case of an emergency evacuation.
Having a ‘family doctor’ is not common in Paraguay. Once you choose a private health facility and you’ve created a good relationship with one of the doctors there, you can request to be seen by the same doctor on every visit.
Your health in Paraguay, in brief:
- As an expat, you should opt for private hospitals in Asunción offering high quality care such as: Centro Medico Bautista, Sanaterio Americano or Mennonita Hospital near Itacurubi.
- It is recommended to plan your medical appointments in advance and choose a single private hospital to ensure proper follow-up with a specific doctor.
- If you have a major health problem, consider seeking treatment in Argentina or Brazil
- Subscribe to private international health insurance to ensure good medical coverage for private healthcare and emergency evacuation.
- In case of a medical emergency, use a private ambulance service; public ambulance services are scarce or non-existent in some areas of the country.
- Vaccination: No vaccinations are compulsory but, in addition to DTP and pertussis, it is strongly advised to get vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A and B.
- Malaria and typhoid fever are almost non-existent in Paraguay
- Beware of zika, a virus transmitted by tiger mosquito bites (of particular concern to pregnant women)
- Do not eat anything raw, unpeeled or uncooked. Beware of ice cubes and drinking tap water, which you can only drink in the big cities.
- Best private hospitals: Sanatorio Italiano, Sanatorio Americano, Hospital Bautista, Centro Medico Materno infantil La Costa, Hospital Migone
Why opt for private international insurance for expats in Paraguay?
- To get holistic health coverage for a wide range of medical services in the best private hospitals in Paraguay
- To be covered in Paraguay, your home country and worldwide
- To be able to be safely evacuated and repatriated in case of emergency or major health problem
- To have access to 24-hour medical assistance wherever you are
Foyer Global Health is specialised in providing tailor-made health insurance solutions for expatriates. We cater to your needs and make sure your health is protected in Paraguay and everywhere else in the world. If you want to learn more about our insurance plans, our experts are here to guide you.