With a population of just over 6 million in 2015, Nicaragua ranks 109th in the world by population and 100th by total area. The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish. The currency is the Nicaraguan cordoba.
Nicaragua ranks 71st in world health ranking per WHO. In 2014, the total expenditure on health per person was $445, which is 9% of the GDP. Nicaraguan males have a life expectancy at birth of 72 years, and females can expect to live 78 years. There are .9 physicians per 1,000 people in Nicaragua as compared with 2.56 physicians per 1,000 people in the United States.
The Ministry of Health provides health services through a network of over 1,000 health centered, managed by Local Comprehensive Health Care Systems. There are 32 hospitals (21 departmental reference, offering a wide range of services, and 11 national reference/specialty), 28 health centers with beds, 144 health centers without beds, and 855 health posts. In addition, a community-based network of nearly 4,400 home-based facilities and 33 maternity homes offers supplemental care. Most of the hospitals are on the Pacific side, mostly in Managua, with only 3 hospitals in the Caribbean region, which is 55% of the territory. Private hospitals and medical clinics are often run by health insurance management companies or nongovernmental organizations.
The Nicaraguan Ministry of Health provides government funded universal free healthcare for about 70% of the population, financed through general taxes. However, delivery models and unequal distribution of resources and personnel cause a lack of quality care in remote areas. In response, the government adopted a decentralized model that emphasizes community-based preventative and primary care. Also, medical school graduates are required to perform two years of service in these high need areas. The Nicaraguan Social Security Institute covers formal sector workers, about 10% of the population.
Private insurance is also available, but people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions are often denied coverage. Another option is to purchase a healthcare package directly from one of the hospitals, but these may only cover routine care while severe illnesses and surgeries are excluded and must be paid out-of-pocket.
Travel, or international, health insurance provides comprehensive medical coverage when traveling outside of one’s home country. Travel health insurance is different from travel insurance, as the latter may provide only emergency coverage but not full medical coverage.
Travelers should check with their health insurance provider, as they may already have an option of international health coverage. If they do not, they can purchase travel health insurance from their home country or the destination country.