Venezuela Medical Insurance
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is located on the northern part of South America. It shares its borders with Columbia to the west, Guyana to the east, Brazil to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Since its colonization by Spain in 1522, Venezuela has always been a place full of diverse ethnicities and cultural history. Venezuela became fully independent in 1830. Since then, it has undergone series of political turmoil, including presidential impeachments, attempted coups, and dictatorships. Venezuela is one of the most developed countries in Latin America. Its most important export, oil, has often helped its economy recover, but other important exports include cocoa and coffee. Venezuela is known for its biodiversity, partially due to its wide range of altitudes and climates. Its wildlife include Amazon River dolphins, jaguars, over a thousand species of birds and insects, manatees, and many more.
In 1999, a new constitution was established, which guarantees a free national universal health care system. Relative to other Latin American countries, Venezuela has a much lower infant mortality, child malnutrition, and maternal mortality rates. However, it still has its share of problems, especially compared with North American and Western European standards. For example, according to the United Nations, 32 percent and 13 percent of Venezuelans do not have access to sanitation services and clean drinking water, respectively. Also, diseases such as yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis D are still prevalent in parts of the country.
Most of the problems mentioned above are most rampant in the rural parts of the country. To address this problem, the Ministry of Health and Social Development (MHSD) has created many programs that are focused on expanding access to health care, clean drinking water, and sanitation services. The MHSD is the chief government body that is responsible for the establishment and implementation of the country’s health strategies, policies, regulations, and standards. The first project, “Plan Bolivar” was established in 2000. This program aimed to help the poverty stricken areas of Venezuela, particularly in the rural locations. The program had government staff visit families, going from door-to-door to vaccinate as many children as they could. However, this program soon fell apart due to corruption.
In 2003, the MHSD tried again with the “Mission Barrio Adentro.” This program brought Cuban doctors into the country in order to go to rural areas to provide free basic medical care. This program continued on until the launch of “Mission Barrio Adentro II” in 2005. This program refocused its goals to building diagnostic centers and health clinics that can provide basic medical services in rural areas. “Mission Barrio Adentro III” was begun in the same year. This project’s main goal was to upgrade 40 of the already existing hospitals throughout the country. However, due to a lack of funding and other management problems, this goal has yet to be reached. “Mission Barrio Adentro IV” was created to supplement the already existing network of hospitals by building 13 hospitals in the rural areas.
Although many new health facilities were built and the program has made great improvements to the health of Venezuelans, particularly in rural areas, there is still much critique of the “Mission Barrio Adentros.” In 2007, it was reported by the Venezuelan Medical Federation, an association of Venezuelan doctors, that around 70 percent of the plans of the program were either left unfinished or never built. In some places, it was reported that local officials even tried to close and turn the clinics into office space. The Venezuelan Medical Federation has also been in strong opposition to the programs because they question the legitimacy of many of the Cuban doctors’ licenses. There are more Cuban doctors than Venezuelan doctors involved in the program. A former minister of health even brought up the point that the continued outbreak of diseases and the general poor state of the public health sector is evidence that the programs and the government is not effectively helping to improve the health of Venezuelans. Others have even accused the current president, Hugo Chavez, of using Cuban doctors to help him campaign and lobby in rural areas.
The public health care system relies on funding from the Venezuelan Social Security Institute. Healthcare facilities are scarce in rural areas, but even in urban areas, the quality of infrastructure, equipment, and care greatly varies. Most services are free, but small fees may be billed for those who can afford them. Prescription drugs also cost a small fee. Public facilities are usually overcrowded, lack proper diagnostic equipment, supplies, and medicines. To further exacerbate an already collapsing healthcare system, many public hospitals are closing amidst rising crime rates and low wages for medical administrators, physicians, and nurses. Venezuela is suffering from a “brain drain” as many physicians have decided to quit their medical careers in Venezuela, either to seek a better life in another country, or to begin a new career. Many, especially in light of recently leaked Wikileaks documents, place the blame on poor, inefficient management, and corruption.
The private medical sector enjoys a much higher quality of care that are often as up-to-date as many western facilities and personnel. Most Venezuelans who can afford the high costs choose to use the private healthcare system. However, the private health system also has many problems. In 2010, the Venezuelan government decided to audit private insurance companies and health service providers because there were allegations that these private companies were preying on its members, seeing the breakdown of the public healthcare system as an opportunistic time to further increase its profits. The evaluation, which will be conducted by the Venezuela’s Public Defenders Office, Institute for the Defense of People’s Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS), and the Venezuelan Superintendent of Insurance Activity, will check to see if private health companies have been following the Insurance Activity Law. The Insurance Activity Law requires all insurers to cover pre-existing conditions and other illnesses for everyone.
In addition to private and public facilities, there are also not-for-profit facilities run by charitable organizations, such as the Catholic Church. Others include the Voluntary Dividend for the Community. This group subsidizes welfare programs, projects, and focuses on increasing public health education and awareness. These types of facilities do play an important role in further bolstering the failing public healthcare system. However, their numbers are not high and cannot provide as high a level of care as private facilities.
Expatriates and tourists are able to use both public and private facilities. As mentioned above, private facilities in Venezuela are of a very high standard. However, the prices are also very high and payment would be asked for before treatment is administered. In public facilities, the quality is much lower than that of western standards. Many of the supplies and medicines that you need may not be available. Diagnostic equipment and doctor training may not be as up-to-date as they are in your home country. Quality really varies from region to region. The best care can be found in the capital city. However, even at the best public facilities, you can expect overcrowding, long lines, short consultation times, and outdated infrastructure, equipment, and staff training.
Although Venezuela’s private health sector does provide a very high level of care, travelers and expatriates going to Venezuela should still purchase an international health insurance policy before arriving in Venezuela. Without insurance, these costs are as high, if not higher than your home country. In the event that you are seriously injured, private health services expenses can be very high.
Furthermore, it is highly recommended that travelers take out a policy that covers emergency evacuation and transportation costs. Rural parts of Venezuela have been known to lack healthcare facilities and personnel. In the event that you are seriously injured, transportation costs can be as much as $100,000 USD.
Travelers visiting the country should get vaccinated against yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, tetanus-diphtheria, mumps, measles, rubella, and meningococcus. In addition, malaria is prevalent throughout Venezuela, so visitors need to carry anti-malarial medicine, sleep in bed nets, and use insect repellant. Always bring adequate supplies of personal prescription medicine and a doctor’s note for these prescriptions. It is also recommended that travelers bring diarrhea medicine, as diarrhea is a common ailment of travelers in this part of the world.
Pacific Prime offers professional insurance advice at no cost to you. No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can help find a policy that fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services, and many more. Please contact us today for a free consultation.