Ecuador becomes latest country to require foreigners to have insurance

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Tourists as well as those planning to live in Ecuador indefinitely will need to provide proof that they have health insurance, beginning on 1 May, as the South American country becomes the latest jurisdiction to introduce such a measure.

The requirement had originally been scheduled to come into force from 6 February, but, according to an Ecuadoran Ministry of Tourism announcement, initial reports “related to this issue by different media  caused concern within the tourist sector” as well as among the country’s citizenry, thus the decision was taken to extend the deadline by 90 days.

“Health insurance for tourists”, the Ministry of Tourism added in its statement, “is a meaningful action for country’s tourism development, due to the benefit it means when choosing Ecuador as a destination, and the well-being of everyone visiting this wonderful country”.

Located on the west coast of South America, bordered by Colombia on the north and Peru to the south, Ecuador is a relatively poor country of around 16.3 million people which is heavily reliant on its petroleum resources for income.

As reported, a growing number of countries around the world have been introducing legislation requiring foreigners to have health insurance as a condition of being allowed to visit or live.

The trend is presenting financial advisers, insurance brokers and international private medical insurance companies with potential opportunities – providing they’re able, and willing, to navigate the not-insignificant regulatory challenges involved.

Jurisdictions in which health insurance is currently compulsory for expatriates include Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Bahrain, Oman, Australia and the Philippines; among those in the process of introducing such a requirement, or considering it, are Qatar, Malaysia and Kuwait.

Earlier this month, the Nigerian state of Lagos emerged as the latest jurisdiction to roll out a new mandatory insurance scheme, which it said was aimed at its poorest citizens.

For cost reasons, private health insurance is considered advisable in a number of other countries where it isn’t currently mandatory, including the US, Singapore, China, and much of Asia and the Gulf, according to iPMI experts.

Bupa in Ecuador

One of the major multi-national insurers already active in Latin America is Bupa Global, the international arm of the UK-based, privately-held health insurer and healthcare provider, Bupa. It has, in fact, been operating in Ecuador since 2005, where, according to Moses Dodo, general manager of Bupa Global Latin America, it has “grown alongside its evolving health system” over the years, and today offers “a range of international private medical insurance [products]” to the Ecuadorean market, including local residents as well as visitors and expatriates.

Dodo acknowledged that the legislation “soon be implemented in Ecuador” is indeed part of “a new global trend among countries, aiming to equally benefit the ‘globally-minded citizens of the world’, where their well-being is always at the forefront”, and added that the company “respects  the precautionary measures that each country implements in favour of its residents and visitors” when such schemes are brought in.