By Carlos Ramirez
A few months ago I received a call in the middle of the night from one of our clients who was suffering from severe knee pain. His doctor had suggested immediate surgery on both of his knees at a price of $9,000, which immediately alarmed me. I contacted one of our other client’s doctors and got an appointment set for the next day. The other doctor concluded that physical therapy and medication would solve the issue, and for less than $2,000, without a painful surgery. This is just one of the many cases that I have seen in which the treating physician proposes an invasive procedure without considering the client's specific situation or exploring other options first.
In Ecuador we have doctors who are highly trained to treat your health conditions at affordable costs, whether they be new or pre-existing. For this reason, we recommend that you consult with at least two doctors before making a final decision when it comes to large-scale medical procedures.
Getting a second medical opinion is crucial in order to verify the cost of procedures and treatment that your doctor is proposing. Medical prices vary extensively throughout Ecuador, especially in doctors offices that serve foreigners. Some doctors may suggest unneeded surgeries, ineffective treatments, or even incorrect treatments if you are wrongly diagnosed due to a language barrier, for example.
Below are some of the most important things to consider when looking for or receiving healthcare in Ecuador:
Contact a doctor who speaks your language or attend your medical appointment with a translator. This will ensure that your provider understands your medical needs and proposes the correct treatment.
Verify that the cost of the services you are receiving are fair and average for the quality and type of treatment. A medical appointment ranges from $20 to $50, although specialists could charge up to $80 per appointment.
If your doctor proposes surgery for specific conditions or problems, seek a second opinion. Verify that the cost of the proposed surgery is comparable with the average cost and that the procedure proposed by your original doctor is supported by the second doctor’s opinion.
Check that your doctor is registered in the SENECYT system. You can learn about your doctor's qualifications through this online database by inputting the name and surnames of your doctor.
Ask your provider if he would be willing to help you with the required documentation for your reimbursement. Remember that in Ecuador the reimbursement process is the responsibility of the client.
If you have private medical insurance you can book your appointments through the available network and the costs will be within the permitted and regulated parameters of your plan. This is the best way to schedule a pre-authorized surgery.
It is important to know that insurance may not cover some medical appointments or procedures such as alternative therapies (ozone therapy), natural medicine, or orthopedic care.
The cost of medical treatment in Ecuador is not regulated by any control entity, which means it is the doctor who decides the cost for the medical procedures they perform. The only regulated medical costs and compliance with health standards are those regulated by ACESS in Ecuador. These reference price tables detail the average suggested prices from the Ministry of Public Health and McGraw Hill, but no doctor is obliged to charge these proposed costs.
Although there is no control entity for medical costs in Ecuador, there are rules and laws that regulate the doctors and health services you receive in our country. It is important that you verify that your doctor has a medical license registered in the SENECYT system and that the clinic you attend has permits issued by ACESS. Ensure that the cost that your doctors are charging for your treatment is fair and average compared to other providers. Lastly, remember that recommendations from friends who reside in Ecuador could be of great help in finding a doctor that meets your specific needs.