Your guide to health insurance in Jamaica
The name Jamaica in its indigenous form, Xaymaca, means “The Land of Wood and Water”. As the third largest island in the Caribbean, it is located south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola (a small island near Haiti and the Dominican Republic). While only 230 kilometers long and 80 kilometers wide, Jamaica is home to 2.8 million people, of which three-quarters are of African descent. Known for its beautiful waters and beaches, Jamaica is a tourism hotspot.
Thinking of moving to this gorgeous island? Perhaps you'd like to sip on its local specialty of Blue Mountain Coffee. You should get to know its healthcare system and your health insurance Jamaica options before you leave. Here is Pacific Prime's rundown of the Jamaican healthcare system and your health insurance options.
Healthcare system in Jamaica
You'll find a total of 35 hospitals in Jamaica. The two largest are both located in Kingston; they are the Bustamante Hospital for Children and the University Hospital West Indies. Be assured that there are one to two smaller hospitals located in each of the 14 parishes in Jamaica.
Outside of the city of Kingston and the Montego Bay area, prescription drugs, ambulances and other emergency services are limited in both availability and quality. Even in Kingston and Montego Bay, serious medical issues may require medical evacuation to the United States, costing thousands of dollars along with hospitalization expenses.
Public healthcare in Jamaica
Public hospitals and clinics are free for all citizens and legal residents. Also free are the costs of prescribed medications. However, queues are long at public facilities. When it comes to medical staff, equipment, and medications, there are also frequent shortages. As high numbers of Jamaicans emigrate to more developed countries, the numbers of doctors and nurses on hand working for clinics decrease and are oftentimes not replaced. Interestingly, there are certain higher-level public clinics that resemble those in the private sector, providing better healthcare than the more basic clinics.
In Jamaica there are over 330 health centres, 24 public hospitals, and around 5,000 public hospital beds. Unfortunately, medical care in Jamaica is quite limited, with extensive medical services only available in Kingston and Montego Bay. No matter where one is in Jamaica (i.e. rural or urban areas), healthcare is unreliable.
Private healthcare in Jamaica
While public clinics provide better family planning and counseling resources, the private clinics of Jamaica are better equipped with regards to medical supplies and are able to return laboratory tests relatively quickly. In Jamaica, there are 10 private hospitals and over 495 pharmacies, 200 of which are in the private sector.
Urban clinics are not as structurally sound as their rural counterparts. Having said that, they are better staffed and equipped. Jamaicans prefer the private healthcare facilities over the public healthcare facilities because the public healthcare sector has proven itself especially insufficient, with weak leadership and management leading to inefficiency and disorganization within clinics.
Because of the mismanagement of the public healthcare system, many health care standards and related legislation are not consistently monitored and enforced. Thus using the public healthcare system can be both hazardous and difficult.
Private healthcare facilities are known for the greater levels of professionalism among practitioners, as well as their ability to focus more attention on the patient in a better environment. However, public health care clinics are substantially less expensive. This leads to longer stays and greater occupancy (determined by number of beds used) in public hospitals, since most Jamaicans are unable to afford private health services out of pocket.
Visitors should bring water purification tablets to have in the event that bottled water is not readily accessible. You should also avoid visiting Jamaica, if possible, during hurricane season, which lasts from June to November, and is the most dangerous from August to October.
Besides Jamaica's location on the hurricane belt, visitors should also remain vigilant when it comes to violent crimes. The UN believes that Jamaica's murder rate is among the highest in the world, at 46.5 per 100,000 people as of 2020. Take extra care when visiting Kingston and Montego Bay, both of which are areas known for high crime rates.
Driving is also risky in Jamaica. While most roads are paved, they have huge potholes and inadequate traffic signage. Keep in mind that the police in Jamaica tend to be understaffed, under-trained, and there have also been reports of corruption. Protect yourself and be ready to solve your own problems. When worst comes to worst, rely on your embassy and private insurance for help during your time on the island.
Secure international health insurance Jamaica
Limited healthcare services, prevalent crime, and insubstantial infrastructure makes it a must to secure international health insurance Jamaica. It acts as an extra safety net in case anything unfortunate happens. With an insurance plan, you'll also get priority treatment and lower the cost of medications that may be prescribed here. Alternatively, it's also a good idea to secure hospital insurance before you leave for the Land of Wood and Water.
Pacific Prime also recommends a plan that provides cover for emergency medical evacuation. Complex medical treatments are likely to be unavailable at Jamaican medical facilities. As a result, a policy with repatriation cover ensures that you won't have to worry about paying out of pocket for high expenses relating to medical transportation. Instead, you can focus on what's important - getting the treatment you need at a top hospital overseas.
With over 20 years of experience in the insurance brokers industry, we've had long-running partnerships with many top health insurance companies. Get a free quote today with our online quotation tool! Contact our team of expert insurance advisors today for free personalized and impartial advice.