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Healthcare in Paraguay


Paraguay has a total population of around 5.5 million and is one of the smallest insurance markets in Latin America.

Insurance is undeveloped and represented 1.10% of the GDP in 2000 with a per capita premium of only $15 (of which only $1 represented life insurance). The Paraguayan market comprised 41 companies at 30 September 2000, of which only two were composites with the rest licensed for non-life business only. It is considered that there are too many companies in operation for the size of the market.

Insurance companies currently write no health insurance business, although there is a sizeable volume written by pre-paid medicine companies. These do not at present form part of the insurance industry but the superintendence of insurance is attempting to bring them under its authority for the purposes of financial control. A decision of the Supreme Court is awaited.

State Healthcare

The most recent legislation regarding healthcare in Paraguay was Law No. 1032 of 1996, which created a national health system. The National Health Council is responsible for the coordination of activities in the health sector and comprises key institutions in the sector headed by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare (MPHSW).

In the public sector healthcare is provided by the ministry together with services for the police and the military, plus municipal health services and the teaching hospital of the National University of Asunción. The Instituto de Prevision Social (IPS) provides cover for occupational illnesses, accidents and disability for contributors in employment. Reliable statistics are hard to come by but the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in 1999 stated that the ministry and other public services covered some 72% of the population, IPS 13%, with the remaining 15% in the private sector.

PAHO states that public health expenditure is $85 per head, or 7.4% of GDP. The estimated number of hospital beds is 6,655 or 1.3 per 1,000 of the population. The ministry, which operates in 18 areas plus Asunción, states that it has 1,471 doctors, 234 dentists, 94 biochemists and pharmacists, 398 nurses and midwives, 916 technicians and 2,752 auxiliaries working in 17 regional hospitals, 18 district hospitals, 120 health centres, 634 health stations, 12 specialist hospitals and eight specialist centres.

The public health service, whether that of the ministry or IPS, is severely deficient. Patient often suffer long journeys or long waits, or both, for treatment.

Private Healthcare

As a result of the inadequacies of the state health service an increasing number of individuals with the financial means, and employee's in-group schemes, have access to private treatment from pre-paid medical companies.

No statistics are available for the pre-paid medicine companies. The insurance superintendence does not publish separate figures for healthcare insurance; premiums are included under miscellaneous.

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