Haiti Medical Insurance
The Republic of Haiti shares the Greater Antillean Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. It is notable as the first independent Latin American republic following a slave revolt in 1804. The country is the poorest in the Americas, and has suffered from political instability and natural disasters, such as a recent catastrophic earthquake in 2010. Its population of 9.4 million has per capita GDP of about USD1,338.
Health and health care in Haiti is very poor. Life expectancy in the country is very low; 59 years for males and 63 for females. Infectious diseases are very common. HIV infection rates of 22 carriers per 1,000 adults are more than four times the Americas regional average. Tuberculosis affects 290 people out of every 100,000, which is more than ten times the regional average.
Annual government expenditure on health care is estimated at USD93, just a fraction of the Americas regional average of USD 3,000, and approximately 8 percent of GDP. Government expenditure makes up 22.1 percent of total health spending. Among private health care spending, out of pocket expenditure makes up 60.8 percent. The remainder of private spending comes from charitable organisations, and there is no private Haiti medical insurance system, or industry, to speak of.
About 60 percent of the population has access to improved drinking water, representing significant improvement from 45 percent in 1990; but inequalities persist, and only about 50 percent of rural residents currently have clean water. Access to improved sanitation facilities has actually declined since 1990; currently, only 20 per cent of all hatians have access to adequate sanitation facilities, down from the 30 percent cited in 1990. Less than 10 percent of rural Haitians have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Only 26 percent of Haitian births are attended by a skilled healthcare professional, compared with the regional average of 92 percent of births being attended by a qualified professional. Measles immunisation for 1 year olds has only been utilised by 58 percent of Haitians, compared with 93 percent of 1 year olds in the region. Gross inequities in access to care exist between rich and poor, and urban and rural inhabitants of Haiti.
Haiti made global headlines following a major earthquake in 2010, which claimed over 200,000 lives and left countless others homeless, and without access to clean water and sanitation. The World Health Organisation (WTO) coordinated the establishment of 17 field hospitals to provide emergency care, but inclement weather and civil unrest complicated the process. The U.S. Army was also involved in the distribution of drugs and medical supplies to assist victims.
Haiti’s health care infrastructure suffered from systemic damage from the quake; according to the WHO, eight hospitals were completely destroyed and at least 22 suffered from serious damage. Emergency fuel supplies from Venezuela were vital to the recovery of important basic medical services. Numerous health agencies provided mobile health units to attempt to provide adequate coverage.
In the wake of the earthquake, Haiti has suffered from a cholera outbreak. According to the WHO Global Alert and Response team (GAR), there had been over 60,000 reported cases leading to more than 1,400 fatalities, including almost 100 in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area. Civil unrest has delayed treatment and training on water chlorination, further compounding the difficult situation. The WHO has formulated a National Cholera Response Plan to address this issue, but currently does not recommend restrictions on international travel, food embargoes, quarantining travellers, requiring vaccination nor “prophylactic administration of antibiotics” because of the outbreak.
In 2003, a fatal outbreak of typhoid struck Haiti caused 40 deaths near the border with the Dominican Republic. The villages affected lacked basic sanitation and clean water; most of the water had high concentrations of E. coli virus.
Before visiting Haiti, visiting a travel medicine clinic or physician specialising in travel medicine is highly recommended. Routine vaccinations should be updated, including: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) and poliovaccine, as well as hepatitis A and B and typhoid; rabies is also recommended for those expected to come into contact with undomesticated animals, particularly bats. Travellers from countries with yellow fever outbreaks must show proof of vaccination. Gastrointestinal discomfort is probably the top health problem for travellers; over the counter anti-diarrhoeal medicines are recommended. Travellers should also ensure that their regular prescription medicines are up to date, as many pharmaceutical products are currently unavailable in Haiti; Expatriates are advised to ensure that they have an adequate supply of any necessary medicines prior to entering the country. Sun protection including broad-brimmed hats, long sleeved clothing, sunglasses, sunblock and drinking adequate bottled water are all recommended in Haiti’s tropical climate.
Like many tropical areas, Haiti is prone to malaria outbreaks. Insect repellent with DEET, long sleeved clothing and mosquito-repellent bed nets are recommended. Prescription antimalarial drugs should be bought before the trip. Atovaquone, proguanil, cholorquine, doxycycline and mefloquine are recommended drugs in Haiti.
Haiti is a very poor country with limited health care resources and is prone to natural disasters and civil unrest. Expatriates and travellers in the country will be unable to obtain medical services on par with those available in first world countries, such as the USA or United Kingdom. Haiti’s medical infrastructure will often only be able to provide basic emergency treatment and expatriates requiring more intensive care will need to be evacuated overseas, often to the USA, to continue undergoing treatment. While the costs associated with an emergency evacuation will not be cheap, it is also important to note that the USA has the world’s highest healthcare costs, and as such it is advised that anyone visiting Haiti purchase a comprehensive international health insurance policy which offers an emergency evacuation benefit, and which provides coverage in the USA.
If you are planning to visit the Caribbean and Haiti is on your itinerary, Pacific Prime is available to assist with your Haiti health insurance needs. Our experienced teams across the globe will provide a free consultation anytime 24 hours a day, with options for solo travellers, families and tour groups. Our policies cover medical services including: dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services and more. Please contact a Pacific Prime adviser for more health insurance information.