Most people who make travel plans don’t necessarily think about the possibility of illness during their vacation.
Learn what travelers to Aruba should expect once they decide to visit our wonderful island. This post makes reference to the “regular” healthcare only. This a non-COVID-19 content.
A few years ago, I traveled with my family to Florida. My boy suddenly became ill to his stomach, and we had to go to the emergency room.
After asking and insisting with my son multiple times whether he may have eaten something wrong he reluctantly confessed that he ate a whole pack of Tic Tac. He was embarrassed to come clean.
That happened not a moment too soon. We were just about to fork over the exorbitant fee this Miami children’s hospital was about to charge us.
A quick visit to the pharmacy followed, and we bought some inexpensive over the counter medicine. Later he was fine.
This anecdotal evidence is to illustrate how things can rapidly change. Proper preparation is essential. The age-old insurance adage goes something like this: better that have insurance and don’t need it instead of needing insurance and not having it.
Aruba has universal healthcare. Every legally registered resident is insured. The entity to oversee the organization is AZV (the website is in our native language Papiamento). This healthcare system replaced a direct, limited government covered insurance in the year 2001.
AZV or universal healthcare costs about US$ 250 million on a yearly basis. This means that Aruba belongs to the Top-30 for healthcare expenditure per capita.
Aruba’s healthcare has a 4-tier financing model:
10.5% premiums levied on salary paid to employees. 8.9 percentage points of this premium are paid for by the employer and 1.6 percentage points are paid for the employee.
For example, if an employee earns a gross of $3000 a month, $318 will need to be paid to AZV. The employer pays $267 and the employee $51.
Small business owners and retirees on a pension pay 10.5% of their earned income.
1.5% sales tax
On all goods and services, a turnover tax of 6.5% is levied.
From this, 1.5 percentage points go directly to Aruba’s healthcare.
As most of Aruba’s economy runs on tourism, this is the single biggest direct contribution of visitors to our healthcare.
Reimbursement of funds at private insurance companies.
For example, when an insured motorist causes an accident with physical injuries, AZV automatically covers the costs.
AZV then proceeds to send an invoice to the motorist’s insurance company where they receive reimbursement.
Direct contribution government
The direct contribution of the island government is a lawful way to guarantee the healthcare system remains solvent.
Tier 1 to Tier 3 is going relatively well. As a result, the direct contribution of the government is going down every year.
This island’s healthcare infrastructure revolves around the general practitioner (GP). The GP practices are in the neighborhoods.
The GP serves both as the neighborhood doctor who takes care of the smaller issues they might encounter.
These professionals also serve to diagnose patients with serious conditions who require specialized care at the hospital.
Aruba’s hospital is located near the hotel area, in the western part of Aruba. If opened officially in 1977 and is Aruba’s only full service hospital. The hospital is undergoing a renovation and expansion.
The hospital has a capacity of 288 beds and offers major medical specialisms. For advanced care most patients fly under auspices of AZV to either Colombia, South America or The Netherlands, Europe.
On the southeastern side of Aruba there is another clinic that offers nearly 10 specializations, including Ambulance and emergency care services.
Throughout Aruba there are nearly 20 pharmacies. The local pharmacies are mostly well-equipped. Most medicines or a variation thereof, will be available. Aruba imports most of its medicine from the USA or The Netherlands.
Aruba is relatively strict with medicine. For most medicine you require a local doctor’s prescription.
Most pharmacies sell regular merchandise as well.
There are nearly 40 caregivers in the dentistry field. The AZV covers most procedures for children. The coverage for adults is limited. For everything else adults need to have additional insurance or pay out of pocket.
In Aruba there are many other specialities. Some receive funds via the healthcare insurance, their own price list, or by donations.
Aruba has a network of nearly 10 midwife practices in Aruba. They offer the initial care pregnant ladies require.
In order to relief pressure from general practitioners and gynecologists, the midwife is essential throughout pregnancies.
There are nearly 30 physical therapy clinics. The practices are around the island or divided by specialization.
The local home care organization offers service from the newly born to the elderly.
It has a couple of locations across the island and has a staff who make house calls to the patients.
Healthcare For Visitors
Admittedly, the healthcare system is purely mostly for residents. Naturally, it is normal that some of our visitors require medical attention.
When non-urgent medical assistance is required, probably the first contact with an Aruba medical professional are the general practitioners (GP).
If you are staying at a hotel most front desk have the phone number of a GP. The doctor will make a house call at your hotel to be of service.
Aruba has many retired GPs who also offer service to visitors.
The hospital is the go-to facility for most visitors requiring more advanced care.
Probably the emergency room the most visited medical care facility, after the GP. At the emergency room you can expect professional level of care once you pass the triage (something that resembles triage).
Near the hotel areas there are some private clinics or practices of caregivers.
The most common services you can expect there are GP services.
Out of Pock Payment or Insurance
To receive medical care in Aruba most transactions for non-residents will be out of pocket.
If you have any type of travelers insurance, it probably won’t be useful locally. Let’s review that.
Instead, you need to prepay the estimated amount. If afterwards it turns out you paid too much, you will receive a refund of the difference.
It is very important to make sure that whatever you pay you ask the local caregiver to offer you an invoice with extensive description with the medical assistance you just received for the insurance back home.
Before you travel inquire with your local insurance carrier if they require anything special from the local caregiver.
Aruba’s healthcare insurance system, AZV, exists nearly two decades. It resembles the Canadian model.
Although our system still has many flaws, it certainly has been an improvement from the previous system. Many islanders were living without coverage, which is not the case anymore.
For visitors, the advantage lies in the fact the medical specializations, infrastructure of caregivers, the medical supply chains are significantly improved.
The written language for the most part will be in Dutch. However, most medical professionals have an education from universities in Europe. English is widely spoken by medical professionals.
Finalizing the post, I cannot leave out a particular service in Aruba that could rival any in the western world.
The professionals working in Aruba’s Ambulance Service are outstanding. They will fight for every single life and are truly remarkable in this regard.
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Disclaimer: this post is purely informational and written with utmost care. However, errors may occur. No claims or rights can be derived from it. Have the proper insurance coverage before traveling to Aruba.