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The IESS was created on July 2, 1970 during the dictatorial regime of Dr. José María Velasco Ibarra. He transformed the National Social Security Fund into what is now the Ecuadorian Social Security Institute (IESS), whose mission and obligation is to provide protection and social assistance to the Ecuadorian worker. Years after its founding, the policies gradually changed to give way to volunteer members, police, and military that now make up the IESS system, with the same mission of protecting the Ecuadorian worker by guaranteeing a retirement, employee support, and pensions that allow their members to benefit from their contributions once they have exceeded the established age limit and the number of contributions. Although, these premises have changed over the years and with each government.

Since its creation, the IESS financial system has suffered from the mismanagement caused by changes in governments. This includes the change and reform of the insurance laws, which has significantly harmed members by affecting their retirement benefits after years of employment.The decline and bankruptcy of the IESS has been attributed to the last two Ecuadorian governments of Correa and Moreno. This includes overpriced purchases, politicized bureaucracy, mistreatment of patients, poor quality of services, equipment abandoned in customs, expired medicines, obsolete and unusable equipment, deteriorated facilities due to lack of maintenance, and other circumstances that unfortunately constitute the day to day operations of the IESS. These problems have created uncertainty for the social protection that members receive, especially since the money produced from 2015-2018 has disappeared from the IESS financial system.

Currently, retirees and members in general are waiting for news about what will happen in the future. They are desperately asking for this institution to be privatized in hopes of compensating irreparable damage. Currently, affiliates must wait months to get doctor’s appointments with specialists and are receiving medical examinations that have been reported to be unreliable due to the lack of reagents in the IESS laboratories.

Regardless of these management problems and the financial pitfalls of the IESS, contracting health insurance with them is still common. In order to register with the IESS you will need an Ecuadorian citizenship card (cedula) and ability to access the IESS services portal. In this portal you will need to fill out your personal data and banking information. The banking information that you enter will need to come from a local bank account and the base contribution will be $79.40, if your monthly salary is $400 per month. We recommend that you declare this salary as your base pay per month since you will not receive any additional benefits by reporting a higher salary, but you may have to pay higher monthly fees to obtain the same benefits. When registering your membership with the IESS it is a must to be accompanied by a Spanish-speaker, hopefully one who is very patient, since the system is notorious for being disabled or under maintenance, which can make the process slightly cumbersome.

When analyzing the problems that this institution is going through, those that are insured are taking alternative measures, contracting private medical insurance that guarantees and supports users in case of outpatient medical care, emergency care, and other basic medical expenses.

If you are a foreigner and you have chosen this insurance, remember that most of the associates of this institution only speak Spanish, and the appointment scheduling channels are in Spanish. Currently an English translation is being created for the virtual platform, but the process has not been completed so you will still have to seek the help of a friend who speaks Spanish if needed.

Being a voluntary member, retirement policies, and retirement pensions will not affect you through IESS, but the lack of medicines and beds, specialist doctors, reagents, specialized laboratories, and other important aspects could put your life at risk. Getting additional insurance was never as necessary as it is now; private medical insurance can be as cheap as $39.20 to $49.56 per month with basic coverage for up to $12,000 per medical event. We highly recommend this coverage as it will surely pay off if you find yourself in an unexpected medical emergency. Medical emergencies in Ecuador are not exorbitant in cost but in the end it could put you in financial debt if you are not prepared for the unexpected.

Author: Carlos Ramirez


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