So, you've decided to retire to Nicaragua? Now you want to
know what happens when you need medical care, where to go for
a health check or how to find an English speaking doctor or dentist.
To be frank, Nicaragua’s public health care infrastructure lacks sufficient health centers, doctors and modern medical equipment, especially in the rural areas. A lot of patience and high tolerance for lower medical standards is required if you want to use the public health care system.
On the plus side, emergency treatment in public hospitals is free of charge. You only have to pay for the medication.
When you retire to Nicaragua, you will most likely opt for private health care. Many Nicaraguan doctors received their medical training outside of the country, e.g., United States, Mexico, Europe, Cuba or the Caribbean. An appointment usually costs in the US$20-$40 range, and even if you have to spend the night in a hospital, a private room won't cost you more than US$100.
In Managua, modern private hospitals are readily available. Opened in 2004, the Hospital Metropolitano Vivian Pellas is considered to be the best in Central America.
Other hospitals with modern equipment and often English-speaking doctors are Hospital Privado Salud Integral, Hospital Bautista, the Military Hospital and the Private Hospital Cocibolca in Granada. The further away you get from the capital and the other major cities, the more rustic and fewer in number the health services get.
In general, Nicaragua’s high quality private healthcare costs much less than in United States or Europe. An exception to this rule exists for citizens from countries with a so-called Universal Health Care system, like Canada or the United Kingdom. As you don’t have to pay directly for your health care in these countries (the system is funded via taxes), you need to figure in health care costs in Nicaragua as an additional expense.
Another pleasant surprise will be the general attitude of the medical professionals. When you visit a doctor (or she or he comes to visit you at home), s/he seems to have all the time in the world for you. I find there is a genuine interest in you as a human being, rather than just your ailment.
Despite the overall lower costs, it’s a good idea to sign up for some form of health insurance in order to be covered for more expensive treatments and/or hospital stays. There are plenty of international health insurance providers that specifically cater to the needs of expats.
You can choose between plans that cover you worldwide, or only in certain countries. Some example providers are Bupa, Cigna Global and International Medical Group (IMG).
Nicaraguan providers may offer cheaper options, especially if you don’t need coverage outside of Nicaragua. Seguros Americas has both national and international coverage plans and there are English-speaking employees in their Managua office. On the downside, their policies have an age limit of 60 years or younger.
One local option without any age limits is the "Healthcare Club" offered by the Vivian Pellas Hospital. Club members get significant discounts on hospital services and medical fees, although discounts for people over 65 and with pre-existing conditions are reduced. Check out their two levels of membership, Silver Healthcare Club and the Golden Healthcare Club.