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Is health care free in Jamaica?
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cornwall_regional_hospital.pngIs Health Care Free In Jamaica?

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer

Healthcare is one of the main concerns when planning to move to another country. What is their health care system like? How affordable is it? Healthcare varies around the world and it is always interesting to see how the different governments handle it.


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Is health care free in Jamaica?

Jamaica falls into the group of countries that provide health care free of cost for its citizens which means, since 2008, visits to public hospitals and clinics come at no financial cost to the citizens. This extends to prescription drugs and some surgeries.

How many hospitals are in Jamaica?

Jamaica has over 20 public hospitals and 330 health centres. The medical facilities are graded from A to C, for the hospitals or Type 1-5 for the health centres.

This grading scheme lets patients know what level of care will be provided at the facility before heading there. For example, a Type 5 clinic will be able to offer a wider range of services and address far more illnesses than a Type 1 clinic.

Type 5 clinics are often located close to a public hospital to help out, just in case the hospital becomes overwhelmed, which in Jamaica, is usually the case.

There are also approximately 500 pharmacies across the island.

Many persons have benefitted from free health care, especially when it comes to medication needed for critical illnesses.

What is medical care like in Jamaica?

When it comes to the care and the capability of the medical practitioners in Jamaica it leaves very little room for questions. But while the medical practitioners of Jamaica do an excellent job with the resources they are given, there are a few drawbacks to public medical care in Jamaica:

  1. They are often overcrowded - Trips to the hospital are usually a whole day affair and quite often, you still are not able to get the help you need. In most cases, people begin queuing long before the hospital or Health centre even opens even if they just have routine checkups or prescriptions to fill. It is not uncommon for someone to spend a day or two at the hospital before getting through.

  2. Out of stock for medication - While the hospital’s pharmacy does its best to have the medications in stock at all times, they often run out of some medicines. For others, it is simply impossible for them to stand the costs of such an expensive drug. In these cases, the patient will have to foot the bill at a privately owned pharmacy in the area or try to live without it. Both of these have proven to be an issue for many.

  3. Shortage of Bed and Equipment - It is quite common to be told that no beds are available, especially for hospitals in major cities that see many patients daily. Lack of proper equipment is also an issue and in most cases, new equipment is obtained through private institutions, charities, foundations and philanthropists.

  4. Lack of funding - On average, only around 3% of Jamaica’s national budget goes to healthcare. So it goes without saying that the health sector is underfunded. This means as I mentioned before, equipment is short, malfunctioning or not up to par with other parts of the world. In addition to that, medical personnel are underpaid and in some cases, the general facilities are run down.

For these reasons, persons who can afford to will seek medical attention at private institutions instead. In addition to the public facilities, there are 10 private hospitals and countless private practices. Private facilities are widely available as long as you can afford to cover these costs on your own or with assistance from your health insurance provider.

While strides to fix the current issues with the Jamaican medical system have been slow, there have been commendable tries. For example, the Ministry of Health released an app through which prescriptions can be sent in.

After this, you will get a date and time as to when you can collect your prescription. This significantly decreases the wait time and the large crowds and the “drug window”.

For many people, it seems more logical to spend the money at private facilities than to wait indefinitely at the hospital.

Does Jamaica Have Health Insurance?

Health insurance is getting increasingly popular in Jamaica. Government-run agencies and organisations have always issued their employees with health care benefits and most private companies have joined suit.

Companies in Jamaica will provide their employees with a health card which subsidises doctor visits, prescription drugs, hospital admission and some surgeries and laboratory testing. If you have issues with eyesight it is also subsidised along with dental care. For persons with children, they can also be added.

This sometimes extends to parents, spouses and even grandparents as it is quite common for adult children to be primary carers for parents and grandparents.

But, even if you don’t work in a company that has this as a benefit or you are self-employed you can have your own medical insurance from medical insurance providers.

It is fairly easy to obtain medical insurance in Jamaica and you will have quite a few options to choose from as well. One point to note, however, is that you must not have attained the age of 65 before you purchase medical insurance as this is the policy of the leading companies.

The Ministry of Health, through the National Health Fund also covers a significant portion of prescription drugs for critical illnesses in Jamaica.

Is Health Care Free For Visitors?

Free health care does not extend to visitors to Jamaica, It only applies to Jamaican citizens and those with legal residence status. If you should visit healthcare facilities in Jamaica as a non-resident you will be asked to pay for any assistance rendered to you.

Does Medicare work in Jamaica?

Medicare does not work outside of the US. This means it will only work within the 50 states of the US and its overseas territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

My personal experience with healthcare in Jamaica has been positive. While in most cases I will visit a private practice, older family members utilise the hospital for general check-ups and prescription medication and that for the most part has been a positive experience.

My advice would be to ensure you have solid medical insurance that works while you are overseas. It works wonders in Jamaica.

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Return to Jamaican Health Profile from Is Health Care Free In Jamaica?
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References & Sources For IS Health Care Free In Jamaica?

  1. Casey, J. (2009) Jamaicans.com. Available at: https://jamaicans.com/health-care-in-jamaica/ (Accessed: November 25, 2022).
  2. Davis, W.by: G. (no date) PM says free access to health care is a right for every Jamaican, Jamaica Information Service. Available at: https://jis.gov.jm/pm-says-free-access-health-care-right-every-jamaican/ (Accessed: November 25, 2022).

Is Health Care Free In Jamaica? | Written: November 25, 2022

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