The Philippines has a totally pay-as-you-go health care system. Your first stop at the hospital (as it is in the US) will be the cashier’s office. You must have money to pay for health care, otherwise you will not get care, will not be admitted to a hospital no matter how dire your situation. A very few hospitals will accept foreign medical insurance cards, but most will not. Larger hospitals accept credit cards (St. Paul’s does) but many do not.
Do not come to the Philippines unless you have the resources to pay for medical care. Even if you are admitted to the hospital, security guards will probably prevent you from leaving the hospital until your bill is settled. See the story of Thomas Hunt for a horrifying example.
Routine health care expenses in the Philippines can be very inexpensive. Your total cost for routine health care may be less than you’ll pay for deductibles and co-payments in the U.S. Still, care for a serious illness (coronary bypass surgery, cancer treatment for example) can run in to the many tens or thousands of dollars.
The US medical insurance program for the elderly, Medicare, does not cover care in the Philippines. Some US veterans can receive care through VA clinics. Some retiree medical insurance programs will reimburse you for care paid for in the Philippines. A very limited number of Philippine hospitals accept US Blue Cross Insurance. One is Asian Hospital in Alabang, a southerly suburb of Manila. If you’re well enough and are covered by Medicare, you can return to the US for treatment.
Sorry, but I’m not familar with how or if European, Canadian or Australian national health insurance programs work (if at all) in the Philippines. Please add any information you can share in the comment box below.
Private heath insurance is available such as Blue Cross Philippines. I’ve had mixed reports about it. Some have had satisfactory experiences, others are very unhappy. Pre-existing conditions will be excluded.
Definitely sign up for the Philippine government program, PhilHealth. Benefits for inpatient treatment are not comprehensive, but very worthwhile. With major surgery you may save tens of thousands of pesos. The cost is P100 per month and the insurance covers the whole family including the foreign spouse can be covered. If you are your spouse are going to be responsible for all or part of the medical needs of the extended family, make sure they are all signed up.
Here is what the PhilHealth web site says about a foreigner signing up on his or her own. “…the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7875, as amended by RA 9241, provides for the inclusion to the National Health Insurance Program the citizens of other countries residing and/or working in the Philippines. If the foreign national is employed, he/she shall be registered under the Employed Sector Program. Meanwhile, if he/she is self-employed or merely residing in the country, he/she may enroll as an Individually Paying Member. He/she only needs to accomplish and submit to any PhilHealth office, the PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF) and a photocopy of his/her Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to prove his/her residency in the country.”
The Iloilo City PhilHealth office is well-run and signing up a fairly painless process. You can pay annually. We pay through our bank each December for the upcoming year. In our case the bank does not have the payment form (why is that?) so that we have to go to the (nearby) PhilHealth office to get the form and then pay the bank. Ask for several payment forms so that they can be used in subsequent years. It’s essential that you obtain and retain the official receipt for your PhilHealth payment. You’ll need to have it when you file a claim.
Our experience with PhilHealth was good when Carol was hospitalized in Manila. Due to mis-communication I had to visit the incredibly busy PhilHeath office on Taft Avenue in Ermita, Manila. Although the office and the harried staff were so busy, the office was well run, most everyone was patient, and was not the nightmare I feared. On the first trip there, I obtained the Member Data Record (MDR), but I had to go back and get a record of our premium payments on the second visit. Once you have those documents, the hospital cashier’s office will take over. Your PhilHealth benefits will be calculated and deducted from the hospital and physician fees you owe.