Paraguay Medical Insurance
Due to its geographic location, the Republic of Paraguay is often referred to as Corazón de América (Heart of America). The landlocked South American nation became independent from Spain in 1811, and its climate ranges from subtropical to temperate. Paraguay is considered a middle income country, with GDP per capita of USD4,700, although the large informal economy means that this validity of this figure is questionable. Annual GDP growth has been the highest in South America, dating back to 1970 when the country began its transition from agriculture to industry. Over half of the population is now based in urban areas. Income inequality is very high in Paraguay, particularly in rural areas where a limited number of landowners control most arable land, and social tension is widespread.
Life expectancy in Paraguay is 72 years for males, and 78 for females, and total health care expenditure per capita is USD342, only a small fraction of the regional average; although, this figure represents 7.6 percent of recorded GDP. Paraguay’s health care system is sorely understaffed compared to its regional neighbours, with 11.1 doctors per 10,000 population, which is less than half of the regional norm. There is a serious shortage of nurses and midwives; only 17.9 per 10,000 population, about one third of the regional average. A program at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba has been dedicated to educating more Paraguayan doctors to attempt to address this shortage.
Government expenditure makes up 37.7 percent of total health care expenditure (THE) in Paraguay, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). This spending is overseen by the Public Health and Social Welfare Ministry (PHSWM) of Paraguay, which has recently stated its aim to improve equity in health care access. Law 1032 was passed to reform the health care sector and oversee both private and public provision of care. About 37 percent of government health expenditure is social security spending. The PHSWM provides subsidised medical care at its clinics, in addition to emergency care and ambulance services. Of all private health care spending, 87.1 percent comes from out of pocket expenditure. Private health insurance coverage has made up an increasing proportion of health care spending since 2008, but the system is still quite limited. Spending from external resources and NGOs makes up less than 10 percent off total health spending.
While mostly all urban residents have access to improved drinking water and sanitation facilities, this is not true of remote rural areas, where only about 60 percent of inhabitants have access to clean drinking water. Still, this figure represents serious improvement, as only about 25 percent of rural Paraguayans had access to drinking water in 1990.
Rates of HIV and tuberculosis (TB) prevalence are below the global average, but transmission of HIV is expected to increase with migration from Argentina and Brazil, and TB is believed to be underreported, particularly in poor urban areas. Due to a recent outbreak of yellow fever in Paraguay in 2008, the WHO has recommended vaccination for all travellers to the country. A 2011 outbreak of dengue fever has claimed at least nine lives following more than 3,000 reported cases of the disease. Before visiting Paraguay, a visit to a physician and travel medicine specialist 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. Despite efforts to eliminate rabies, new cases occur every year, so vaccines should be updated before travel to Paraguay.
Malaria is prevalent in the Paraguayan departments of Alto Paraná, Caaguazú, and Canendiyú, and a serious epidemic occurred in 1999 - 2000. Proper prophylactic measures include insect repellent with DEET, mosquito bed nets and wearing long-sleeved clothing. Antimalarial drugs are recommended, preferably primaquine, which has been most effective in the region, although users should be tested for allergic reactions beforehand. Alternatives include atovaquone, proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline and mefloquine.
Other insect-borne diseases seen in the region include dengue, filariasis, onchocirsiasis and Chagas disease. Thirty-six cases of visceral leishmaniasis were reported from 2000 – 2004, but this appears to have been contained. Viral encephalitis, Oroya fever and louse-borne typhus can also be found a few remote regions of Paraguay. Also, parasitic infections may be found in fresh water, so limiting swimming to chlorinated pools is highly recommended.
Gastrointestinal diseases obtained from food and water are the most common afflictions for travellers and Paraguay is no exception. Precautions should include frequent hand washing and sanitation, drinking only bottled water, and avoiding undercooked food and dairy products. Anti-diarrhoeal medicine should be carried to treat less serious cases.
Despite Paraguay’s relative wealth and modernity, access to health care resources in remote rural areas can be substandard. Precautions must be made before taking a trip. Since Paraguay has very limited local private health insurance, arrangements must be made before travel. Emergency evacuation may be necessary for situations needing serious medical attention; it is recommended that all travellers to the country purchase a Paraguay health insurance plan which includes emergency evacuation coverage.
In the event that you are sick, or suffer from a serious accident while in Paraguay, the local medical facilities should be able to provide adequate levels of emergency care. However, expatriates who require more serious medical treatment are advised to only use the nation’s private healthcare facilities, which can be more expensive than the national averages. Public healthcare is available in Paraguay for national citizens, but travellers will typically be asked to pay for their medical treatment before seeing a physician.
If you are planning to visit South America and Paraguay, Pacific Prime is available to assist with your travel health insurance needs. Our experienced teams worldwide will provide a free consultation anytime 24 hours per day, with options for solo travellers, families and tour groups. Policies can cover a range of medical services including: dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services and more. Don’t hesitate to contact a Pacific Prime advisor for further health insurance, or Paraguay medical insurance details.