Any Americans moving to Peru are in for a treat. You can spend your days strolling through sun-soaked coastal cities, exploring the spectacular Andean highlands, or even venturing into the Amazon jungle. Not to mention you’ll have some of the lowest living costs in the world.

And, with American migrants making up around 9% of Peru’s population, you can rest assured you’ll feel right at home.

But before you pack your bags, it's important to look into the healthcare options available. Is Pervuian healthcare similar to US healthcare? Will it end up draining your bank account? What exactly does it cover? Luckily, we have all the answers waiting for you further down this page.

If you've already decided that private health insurance is right for you, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Machu Picchu

Luscious, green Machu Picchu standing tall amongst the clouds

Peruvian healthcare: key statistics

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    Average life expectancy
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    % of Peruvians with private health insurance
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    World healthcare ranking /100

How does Peru’s healthcare system work?

Since the early 2000s, Peru’s healthcare system has been hugely reformed.

Currently, all Peruvian residents can access public healthcare – but how they do this will depend on their socioeconomic status. According to the World Health Organisation, Peru’s health sector is split into five entities:

  • The Ministry of Health (MINSA) – Provides services for 60% of the population
  • Seguro Social de Salud (EsSalud) – Provides services for 30% of the population
  • Sanidad de las Fuerzas Armadas – Provides services for people in the armed forces
  • Sanidad de la Policia Nacional – Provides services for people in the police force
  • The private sector – Provides services for 10% of the population

In an effort to introduce universal healthcare, MINSA provides affordable public care to Peru’s poorer residents. Although MINSA is primarily funded internally, a small portion of money also comes from donations, contributions, and international aid agencies.

Unemployed people in Peru can either cover the cost of healthcare with out-of-pocket payments, private medical cover, or the government’s Seguro Integral de Salud (SIS) program. Organized through MINSA, SIS aims to provide insurance for all lower-income communities through subsidized prices and copayments.

SIS is currently the largest health insurance scheme in Peru – with users increasing from 17% of Peru’s population in 2007 to around 47% in 2017.

Salaried workers, on the other hand, can access the public healthcare system through EsSalud – a public health insurance plan that is provided through employers. Once an employee is enrolled into the scheme, 9% of their salary will be automatically deducted each month to cover the cost of the insurance.

EsSalud is compulsory for all employees (working in both the public and private sectors), retirees, self-employed workers, and students.

What’s included in Peru’s state healthcare?

MINSA covers primary and hospital care – including midwifery and maternity care – with a keen emphasis on disease prevention.

Residents insured by EsSalud can be covered for:

  • General and specialized care
  • Hospitalization fees
  • Dental care
  • Maternity care
  • Laboratory analysis
  • Medication
  • Rehabilitation
  • Prevention
  • Vaccination
Llamas in Peru

One of the reasons why Llamas are a quintessential symbol of Peru? They're everywhere!

Is healthcare free in Peru?

Although Peru is working towards universal healthcare, residents still need to pay for treatment and prescriptions. 

The cost of healthcare services will depend on whether you’re insured by SIS, EsSalud, or private medical cover.

Want a better idea of how much treatment will cost you in Peru? Check out the prices below, taken from a recent study on the cost of Peruvian healthcare for COVID-19 patients during 2020. Bear in mind that, whether you’re with a public or private plan, a portion of these costs will be covered by copayments or deductibles.

Cost of clinical bed for 10 days US $377US $2,450US $2,500
Bed cost in Intensive Care Unit for 15 daysUS $5,700US $12,000US $26,250
RadiographyUS $6.70US $12US $15
Antibiotic therapyUS $866.90US $866.90US $2,167.20
Mechanic ventilationUS $180US $572 US $1,200
Bladder catheterization US $6US $11US $13

Quality of healthcare in Peru

Although healthcare in Peru has come on leaps and bounds over the past two decades, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

In 2019, the Lancet’s worldwide effective healthcare coverage index gave Peru a score of 76 out of 100 points – slightly lower than the US’s score of 82.

Whilst the number of insured Peruvians has increased from 37% in 2004 to 83% in 2017, 17% of the population still doesn’t have any form of health insurance.

The standard of care in Peru is also pretty poor. Generally, there are strained financial resources, muddled communications between organizations, and a lack of trained medical staff.

Primary care staff in particular are in dire need of more in-depth training. On average, there are 298 credits required to graduate from medical school – but only 4-11 of these credits are related to primary care.

Waiting times are also a major point of concern. In some areas, patients have to wait nearly 40 days to have a consultation with a physician. As for surgery? Queues can be up to 60 days.

What’s more, healthcare facilities are distributed very unevenly throughout Peru, meaning access to care is scarce in some places. For example, EsSalud has around 380 healthcare centers distributed across the country. However, at least half of these hospitals are located in Lima.

Healthcare in Peru for foreigners

All residents in Peru are entitled to public healthcare, including expats.

Expats working for a company located in Peru will automatically be covered by EsSalud – employers are obligated to enroll employees into the plan as soon as they start work.

However, the poor standard of care people tend to experience in public healthcare facilities means a lot of expats take out private medical cover instead, to make sure they’re getting the best quality of care.

If private health insurance sounds like a great option for you, check out our list of recommended healthcare providers. From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Do I need health insurance in Peru?

It’s compulsory for any expats moving to Peru to sign up to EsSalud if they’re moving for work, retirement, or to study – unless they decide to take out a private medical insurance plan instead.

However, as we mentioned earlier, many expats find private insurance more suitable whilst living in Peru. Although foreign nationals can access public facilities, these services tend to offer far lower quality than you’d get in the US. Private facilities, on the other hand, provide a much higher level of care, but will be extremely costly without insurance.

It’s also wise for travelers to take out an insurance policy that covers emergency evacuation and transportation costs.

In rural areas, it might be difficult to find a healthcare center – and if you do find one, chances are it won’t have the right facilities to treat some specific illnesses or injuries. In this case, you’ll have to be taken to another town, city, or even region of Peru, which can cost as much as $100,000.

Peru indigenous woman

A Quechua indigenous woman in traditional clothes, walking along the ancient Inca Wall in Peru

Benefits of private medical cover in Peru

Private healthcare can offer a few extra benefits that Peru’s state healthcare can’t, including:

  • On-demand access to a network of private hospitals
  • Highly trained medical staff
  • Shorter waiting times
  • Access to better facilities and more up-to-date equipment
  • Fewer language barriers
  • Better access to healthcare in remote areas

How much does health insurance cost in Peru?

Although Peru’s public insurance options cover some of the costs for medical bills, you’ll still need to make copayments for services and prescriptions. Private health insurance is a great way to make sure you can cover these costs – especially for expats with ongoing health issues.

The average cost for an international private medical policy in Peru is $4,213, whereas a family package will set you back roughly $12,463.

There’s no denying that this is pretty pricey – but, compared to insurance prices in America, it’s actually much more affordable. As you can see on the graph below, the average international private medical policy in the US is more than double the cost of the average policy for expats in Peru. 

Data from Prime Pacific, 2019

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to health insurance costs, which is why the price tag will fluctuate so much. It depends on a range of factors, including:

  • The provider you choose
  • Your level of coverage
  • Your age (the higher, the more expensive)
  • The area of cover (i.e. are other areas required in the coverage, in addition to Peru?)
  • Whether you have any pre-existing conditions

Want a better idea of how much it’ll cost you to get covered for private medical insurance in Peru? Check out our list of recommended healthcare providers.

From there, you can request free quotes from whichever company suits your needs.

Advice for expats moving to Peru

Now that you’re up to date on Peru’s healthcare system, you can figure out whether public or private care will work best for you and your family. Once you’ve made this choice, you can look forward to all that Peru has to offer.

To find out more, check out our article on Moving to Peru.