What Expats Should Know About Healthcare in Latin America

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

The healthcare in Latin America is excellent. I speak from personal experience. Hospitals, local clinics, and EMT ambulances are staffed with highly trained doctors and nurses, both in generalized and specialized practices. It’s as you would expect to find in America. However, you only pay a fraction of the cost.

Healthcare in Latin America: Trained Medical Professionals

Many medical professionals here are trained at universities in North America, Europe, and prestigious medical schools in Latin America. Most pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and emergency medical techs speak fluent English and Spanish.

What About Prescriptions?

“But what about all the prescriptions my doctor tells me to take daily to survive?”

Bring your prescriptions into Latin America and have them filled for about one-tenth (1/10th) the cost of medications in the U.S. You can also ask any pharmacist for identical generic drugs, request antibiotics, or other meds without fluoride and inquire about herbal remedies. None of the above requires a prescription to get.

The medical professionals here are also trained in nutrition and willing to write prescriptions for natural, herbal remedies if you prefer. Many natural vitamin, or herbal supplements can be filled at your local vitamin or health food stores and can also be found at neighborhood pharmacies. Although not pharmacists, employees at health-food stores can fill your natural-remedy prescriptions.

Healthcare in Latin America – Healthier Than Other Countries?

The closer to the equator, the brighter the sun shines, and the warmer the climate is year-round. Sunshine is life-giving, containing large doses of mind-and-mood soothing vitamin D.

According to Google and holistic practitioners, “Sunshine causes our bodies to produce vitamin D (D-1, D-2, and D-3) naturally when directly exposed to sunlight.”

And with great weather, we’re encouraged to walk more, as “walking is a pleasurable weight-bearing exercise. It strengthens our bones and improves our overall health” (quoted from Ashtead Hospital online, and other medical sources)

Healthcare in Latin America: Family and Faith

Cheri and son Jake - Living Healthy Lives in the Tropics by Cheri Majors M.S.
Cheri and son Jake – Living Healthy Lives in the Tropics by Cheri Majors M.S.

Latin American countries respect family and faith core values as an important part of the Latin culture, providing emotional-health benefits of belonging.

Encouraging and caring for family members and friends usually stems from a deep-rooted faith in God, and those religious beliefs are echoed throughout surrounding communities and in neighboring countries. Warm greetings and prayers are all part of the social norm, providing healing for the soul.

Natural-food diets, with fish, meat, dairy, veggies, and especially sweet tropical fruits provide an excellent source of nutritional hydration for hot-weather climates around the equator.

Fruits like coconuts, kiwis, mangoes, pineapple, and watermelon grow plentifully in our tropical climates and can be eaten right off the tree or vine. We can toss most into a blender with ice for smoothies or refreshingly healing juices on their own.                                 

Healthcare in Latin America: Our Stories

Medical prices in Latin American countries are truly affordable when compared to the United States’ inflated hospitalization costs. If my son’s 2019 motorcycle accident happened in America, I would not have been able to afford it.

My Son’s Accident

My son Jake with wired jaw after his motorcycle accident by Cheri Majors, M.S.
My son Jake with wired jaw after his motorcycle accident by Cheri Majors, M.S.

My son received several ambulance rides and x-rays over a six-day hospital stay.

He had broken his jaw when he was ejected over his motorcycle handlebars, landing chin first on the pavement.

Hospital staff allowed me to stay by his side and help when needed, while church-prayer teams came daily, praying over us and other patients.

When healed enough for plastic surgery on his face, they wired his jaw shut for 7 weeks, costing $3,500 BZD ($1,750 USD).



Outpatient Healthcare in Latin America: Baja, MX

My son Jake recovered from accident by Cheri Majors, M.S.
My son Jake recovered from accident by Cheri Majors, M.S.

My experience in Baja, MX, was at a local clinic where my friend was Lead Surgeon and removed a mole for free. It was a short, outpatient surgery, and my only cost was buying antibiotics. The surgery was professional, and six years later, there is no scarring.

During COVID quarantines in 2020, we took a friend for medical attention to a Belize clinic, minutes from our rural farm.

Doctors and nurses came out to our cars, attending to our friend and others for yearly flu symptoms, right in their packed parking lot. The doctor treated and cured our friend’s symptoms with cough syrup and a few meds costing $40 BZD ($20 USD), for the entire drive-thru doctor visit!

Super Modern Healthcare in Latin America: Panama

LP in the Emergency Room in Panama City
LP in the Emergency Room in Panama City

My friend and fellow Expat, LP, burned his foot. He isn’t a person who goes to the doctor’s office quickly, but after a week of no improvement, he went to a super-modern hospital in the San Francisco district in Panama City.

His immigration lawyer even drove him. Friendly medical staff tested his blood for infection and put him on a three-hour drip. Luckily, there was no infection, and the drip and the low-cost meds helped him recover within a day!

He was in the hospital for 31/2 hours. The charge? $318.00. He knows the same treatment in the US would have cost him thousands. The doctors and nurses were super friendly and spoke English, too. Salud made in Latin America.

Healthcare in Latin America: Conclusion

Whether doctor’s office, hospital, or local clinic, the doctors and nurses, emergency care workers, and medical technicians give excellent care in Latin American countries at a fraction of the prices charged within America’s healthcare system. For a variety of reasons, the cost of emergency care and hospitalization can be free, but and in all cases, I know of, is significantly lower than equivalent care in the US.

What’s healthcare like where you are? Have you received medical care while abroad? Was it affordable quality care? Share your experience with other expats here on TCI.

by: Cheri Majors, M.S.