Healthcare in Puerto Rico
Let’s look into Puerto Rico healthcare system, insurance options, and medical facilities you can find on the island.
Puerto Rico’s healthcare system is equipped with quality medical facilities and experienced healthcare professionals. It is almost similar to what you would expect in the U.S. Still, conditions vary throughout the island, with some areas offering better service than others. There may also be differences in insurance costs, access to care, and appointment wait times.
Healthcare in Puerto Rico is not free. You will need an insurance plan to help cover your medical costs. If you are briefly visiting Puerto Rico, you can continue using your U.S. health insurance, but consider double-checking your coverage before traveling. If you are moving permanently to Puerto Rico, switching to local insurance is best. If you qualify for Medicaid, you can continue using it as it is valid on the island.
Signing up for private insurance will provide you with better quality healthcare, shorter appointment wait times, and a larger pool of healthcare providers. Local insurance plans are widely accepted around the island, and most cover common health care costs, including medical, prescription, dental, and vision.
The largest provider of health insurance in P.R. is Triple-S Salud. Triple-S offers coverage for emergency services in the U.S. if the provider is part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield group. Other insurance providers include Humana, FirstMedical, MCS, and Plan de Socios de Auxilio Mutuo. MCS also offers healthcare coverage, including emergencies, in the United States. You may have to prequalify for treatment, so you should refer to your policy or contact customer service for more information.
You will find that premiums are usually more affordable than on the mainland. In the U.S., you typically have to deal with deductibles, requiring you to spend a certain amount of money out of pocket before your plan begins to cover your medical costs. In P.R., you do not need to worry about meeting a specific deductible. You cover the co-pay up-front (sometimes none) for each visit, your prescription, and emergency room visit. Of course, consider double-checking your insurance to verify your covera
Public healthcare in P.R. is offered through a government-funded program, Vital, where eligible low-income or special needs residents can receive insurance. This program is underfunded, causing a shortage of doctors as they move to the U.S. for better salaries and working conditions.
Finding Healthcare Providers
You can find all sorts of healthcare providers across P.R., from chiropractors and endocrinologists to physical therapists and cardiologists. No matter your medical needs, you will most likely find the right specialist for you. You will find that the metro area of San Juan has a more significant concentration of experienced doctors and high-quality medical care facilities. If you live farther away, don’t fret, you will still find quality healthcare near you, although you may have to travel a bit further for specialized care.
The best way to find a healthcare provider is by asking a friend or your primary care doctor for a referral. Directories provided by health insurance companies are usually outdated and offer inaccurate information. To make appointments, call the office directly (no online scheduling) and be prepared to wait weeks or months for a slot. Some offices work by having appointment windows where you are treated on a first-come-first-serve basis, meaning you might be in the waiting room for a while.
There are also membership-based “concierge-style” options, such as Pravan Clinic, Premier Medical Access, Doctors on Call, Concierge Medical Services, and P.R. Concierge & Internal Medicine Services. They provide top-quality, personalized healthcare via in-person visits, online consultations, and more for a fee.
If you need over-the-counter medicine or a prescription filled, there are plenty of local and chain pharmacies throughout the island, such as Walgreens and CVS. Notably, most physician offices don’t send a prescription directly to the pharmacy. You have to take it yourself.
If you need lab work, there are plenty of laboratory facilities with bilingual staff throughout the island. Usually, you don’t need to make an appointment as they serve on a first-come-first-serve basis. Make sure you take your insurance card and lab work prescription to the facility. Before leaving, ask at the lab when your labs will be ready. When ready, the lab will have you pick the results up or send them to you via email – not directly to the doctor. You will then need to make an appointment to review your lab results with your physician.
Hospitals and Emergency Services
In case of a medical emergency, dial 911. Operators may not be bilingual and speak Spanish only, but you can be transferred to an English speaker if required.
Check your health insurance policy if it covers ambulance costs in an emergency. They may request payment upfront if the ambulance is from a private company.
There are various quality hospitals throughout the island. In the San Juan region, you can find Hospital Ashford (also known as El Presby) in Condado and Hospital Pavia in Santurce. Centro Medico is a public hospital that has excellent physicians and services. In Dorado, Sabanera Health, a hospital and outpatient health center that collaborates with John Hopkins, recently opened in March 2022.
Staying Healthy in Puerto Rico
To stay healthy in Puerto Rico, slather on sunscreen, wear bug spray, hydrate, stay active, and befriend locals.
If looking for healthy eats and fresh, local produce, visit a local Plaza del Mercado (farmer’s markets). Some towns have a mercado near their town plaza, where produce is available daily. Some of these markets you can visit in the San Juan area are La Placita de Santurce and el Mercado de Rio Piedras.
Open-air markets are also becoming more popular. They open one day a week or biweekly and sell local produce, healthy eats, and artisanal goods. One example of this type of market is the Mercado Agricola Natural Organic Market in front of El Morro.
Many more eateries and markets throughout the island serve healthy, delicious food and produce. Whether you’re into markets, casual atmospheres, or fine dining, you definitely will find something you’ll love. Feel free to eat around P.R. to find your favorite eats for a full belly and a happy, healthy heart ♥️.