Solid ground is nice, but living amongst water is such a unique experience that some places, like Venice, are famous purely for their aquatic settings.

Such is the case with the Philippines. Rather than being one big landmass, the Philippines is a country that is scattered across an archipelago – a cluster of islands dotted throughout a webbed network of water.

But perhaps this isn’t the only thing the Philippines has that makes it unique – maybe their health system is worthy of praise! Let’s have a look at how their healthcare system operates, and how well covered Filipino citizens are.

If you’re travelling to the Philippines, or even emigrating for good, then it's worth checking out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

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    % of Filipino citizens with health insurance
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    Average life expectancy (in years)
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    Average no. of days before surgery in public hospital
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Make sure you have a happy heart and healthy life in the Philippines!

The healthcare system in the Philippines

So what does the healthcare system in the Philippines look like? The standard of the country’s healthcare ranks within the middle third of countries worldwide, coming in 124th place in the 2018 study, “Measuring performance on the Healthcare Access and Quality Index for 195 countries and territories and selected subnational locations.”

It wouldn’t be your first choice if you had to pick a healthcare system, but it’s serviceable at the very worst. This average rank of 124th is typically due to the country's hospital facilities being less than ideal.

Doctors in the Philippines are usually as skilled as you could hope, as they often study their practice in other countries, but sometimes the hospitals can be under par.

The government has also failed to invest as much into the system as other countries, spending just 4.4% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare, according to Statista.

That contrasts starkly with the UK, which spends 10% of its GDP on healthcare, according to the World Bank.

There are thousands of pharmacies in the Philippines, many of which are attached to hospitals, and are open at all hours.

Most medications you'll need are available at pharmacies in the country, especially in major cities. Use the government's Drug Price Reference Index to see where you can get a specific medication, and how much it'll cost.

In an emergency, you can dial 911 for an ambulance. If you're a public healthcare recipient, you can get an ambulance for 500-1500 pesos (£7-£22), but it'll typically provide you with a lower level of care than private ambulances, which usually cost 2,000 pesos (£29).

Speak to your doctor well in advance of moving to the Philippines, so you can secure the right vaccinations in time. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommend most expats get typhoid medication, as well as vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B.

Depending on where in the country you'll be living, you may also need medication or a vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis, malaria, or cholera. If you'll be in a rural area or working near animals, you may also need a rabies vaccination.

Philippines Hammock

If you injure yourself falling out of a hammock, you might want to look into private healthcare

Is there free healthcare in the Philippines?

Yes and no. The Philippines does have a public healthcare system, which provides healthcare to its citizens, but that seems to be where the line is drawn. Expats do not have such a luxury, as the public healthcare system doesn’t include expats from the get go.

Once you’re officially nationalized (like if you were to acquire citizenship), you will be enrolled in the public system, PhilHealth. Until then, it’s a good idea to cover yourself with a private plan. There are a lot of criteria that need to be met to become a registered citizen, like owning property, living in the country for over 10 years, and being of good moral character.

Due to the Filipino system needing some work, some people do opt for a policy with an evacuation clause. This allows them to receive care in the nearby countries of Singapore or Thailand, which have objectively superior healthcare standards to the Philippines.

You'll need to call 911, or 143 for specific health emergencies.

How much does private insurance cost in the Philippines?

You might be looking at a private plan due to this inaccessibility. And whether you’re moving to the Philippines as an individual or along with your family, these plans can be a considerable investment. These two scenarios would obviously entail two different health insurance costs.

We’ll split them into two categories, since individual plans and family plans are usually two different beasts. However, the real cost of either will hinge on whatever you decide to include in your plan.

For an individual?

For an individual, a plan from a health maintenance organisation (HMO) can cost anywhere between 10,000-60,000 Filipino pesos a year (£147 – £880). From a private provider, your cheapest option will run you around 40,000 pesos (£590).

The Philippines has two kinds of private medical coverage – standard private companies, which is what we're all familiar with, and HMOs.

There are legal distinctions, and they can be a bit hard to parse, but for an easy way of separating the two, just think of HMOs as a basic subscription.

HMOs are usually supplied through a person's place of work, and cover a person's basic health needs. But for bigger procedures, you'll want to look at full-on insurance plans.

For a family?

There isn’t a firm number on how much more a family will cost on a plan, but we can confirm that having a family of four on a plan is cheaper than having four individual healthcare plans. 

Based on data from other health providers in other countries, we can predict that a plan costing 40,000 Phillipine pesos will cost approximately 60,000 Phillipine pesos (£880) when extended to a family of four. This is a projection, however, so make sure to nail down pricings before you pull out the wallet.

If you’re after a more accurate price, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Manila Philippines

In a bustling city like Manila, you're bound to find some skilled doctors

How many people have private healthcare in the Philippines?

No matter how good a public healthcare system is, you’ll always find some percentage of citizens who elect to pay for private healthcare – whether that means they opt out of the public system, or use a private plan to make up for any deficits in the public system.

In the Philippines, private healthcare made up 8.6% of the healthcare expenditure in 2014. Compared to previous years, this is a slight increase, so we can estimate that in 2020, it will be about 10%.

Furthermore, in the same study, The Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey found that private insurance covered a total of 1.9% of households (or roughly 1.9 million people).

As you can tell, this is not a large amount at all, so private insurance is by no means an essential that every family has – it’s more of a luxury used by people who can afford the extra costs.

Do I need private medical coverage in the Philippines?

Based on the small number of citizens who use private healthcare, no, you don’t need any kind of private coverage. The public system seems to be capable of covering any conditions or procedures you may encounter on your quest for better health.

But this only works if you are covered by the public system in the first place. And like we mentioned above, it can take a bit of effort for an expat to enter into the public system.

If you’re not marrying into Filipino citizenship, then it might be a good idea to arrange a plan, even if it’s just for the period in which you are unable to join PhilHealth. Luckily we can help with that – all you have to do is check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Next steps

So there you have it. The Philippines’ healthcare has a lot of room for improvement, but can definitely be appropriately complemented with the right private healthcare plan. And if you pick the right plans, you can arrange to be moved to a nearby country with far better healthcare – meaning a private plan is definitely a good idea.