Things To Know About Healthcare In Puerto Rico Before Moving: Essential Information

Puerto Rico offers a unique blend of Caribbean charm and modern American influences, making it an appealing destination for those considering relocation. Healthcare in Puerto Rico is an important aspect to be familiar with before making the move, as the system differs from the mainland United States. With a mixture of private and public healthcare facilities, understanding the structure and services available is crucial to ensuring a smooth transition.

While Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the healthcare system operates under a mix of federal, commonwealth and private funding. This creates a healthcare landscape that can appear complex and challenging to navigate for newcomers. It’s important to be aware of the potential language barriers, as many healthcare providers may communicate primarily in Spanish, and to understand the costs of living and healthcare expenses, which are generally lower compared to the mainland U.S. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with emergency services and procedures is essential for ensuring your well-being in your new home.

Key Takeaways

  • Familiarize yourself with Puerto Rico’s healthcare landscape, including a mix of public and private facilities
  • Be prepared for potential language barriers as Spanish is the primary language of communication
  • Consider the generally lower cost of living and healthcare expenses in Puerto Rico compared to the mainland U.S.

Puerto Rico Healthcare System

Puerto Rico offers a well-rounded healthcare system for its residents, although conditions may vary throughout the island. Health insurance options are also available, with both public and private sectors providing coverage.

Public Healthcare

In Puerto Rico, about half of the population receives benefits from the island’s Medicaid program, which operates on a Managed Care system. The annual healthcare budget as of 2019 is around $367 million; however, estimated expenditures are closer to $2.8 billion. Despite the significant funding, patients may experience long waiting times at public hospitals due to a shortage of medical staff. This can be particularly problematic for those with chronic health conditions who require frequent check-ups and treatment.

Private Healthcare System

The private healthcare sector in Puerto Rico offers an alternative to the public system, providing more personalized care and shorter waiting times. Expats and residents alike can access private healthcare services by purchasing private health insurance plans. Many international health insurance companies offer comprehensive coverage in Puerto Rico, ensuring access to private clinics and hospitals throughout the island. Access to private healthcare services generally results in higher treatment costs, making private health insurance plans essential for those who choose this route.

Overall, the Puerto Rican healthcare system and health insurance options provide adequate coverage and care for residents, but it’s essential to consider personal health needs and preferences when choosing between public and private healthcare services.

Navigating Healthcare Services

When moving to Puerto Rico, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the healthcare services available. This section provides a brief overview of the various aspects you need to be aware of, including finding a doctor, insurance plans, pharmacies and prescriptions, and laboratory tests.

Finding a Doctor

In Puerto Rico, the healthcare system offers a range of services from licensed physicians, healthcare providers, nurses, and lab technicians. To find a doctor, you can consult with local hospitals, clinics, or use referral services and online directories. It’s important to ensure the doctor you choose is board-certified and specializes in the area of medicine required for your needs. While most doctors in Puerto Rico speak English, finding a bilingual doctor, if needed, is also possible.

Insurance Plans

Healthcare in Puerto Rico operates under a Managed Care system, and a significant portion of the population receives benefits through the island’s Medicaid program. Private insurance is also available and is facilitated through various providers. When selecting an insurance plan, make sure it covers all your health needs and is accepted by your chosen healthcare providers. It is advised to consult with insurance brokers or companies to compare plans and find one that suits your needs.

Pharmacies and Prescriptions

Pharmacies are readily available throughout the island, offering prescription and over-the-counter medications. In Puerto Rico, medications are prescribed by authorized doctors and can be conveniently purchased in most community pharmacies, hospital pharmacies, or even supermarket pharmacies. It’s essential to ensure your insurance plan covers your prescribed medications and that you have a clear understanding of the procedures required to obtain them, such as regular check-ups with your doctor or referrals to specialists.

Laboratory Tests

For laboratory tests, there are a variety of options, including hospital labs, independent labs, and clinics with lab facilities. Puerto Rico’s healthcare services include technology-enhanced facilities, ensuring efficient processing of the tests. When referred for a laboratory test, it’s essential to confirm whether your insurance covers it and the preferred laboratories for your plan. Additionally, ensure that you receive a detailed and clear explanation of the testing process and follow-up appointments from your doctor or lab technician.

Language and Communication

When considering a move to Puerto Rico, it is important to understand the role of language and communication in the island’s healthcare system. Spanish is the predominant language spoken in Puerto Rico, although English is also an official language. In fact, nearly all Puerto Ricans understand and speak Spanish, while English proficiency varies.

For English speakers, navigating the healthcare system in Puerto Rico can be a challenge if they are not fluent in Spanish. Medical professionals, such as doctors and nurses, may speak English; however, the level of fluency depends on the individual. In larger hospitals or medical centers, it is more likely that you’ll find English-speaking staff. Smaller clinics or pharmacies, on the other hand, may have fewer English-speaking employees.

It is recommended that English speakers moving to Puerto Rico make an effort to learn some basic Spanish phrases related to healthcare. This will not only help in emergencies but will also make routine medical visits and communication with healthcare providers significantly easier.

Some expats and residents choose to bring bilingual friends or family members to appointments as a way to ensure smooth communication between the patient and healthcare provider. Additionally, there are translator services available through certain health insurance plans, but it’s important to check on this ahead of time.

In conclusion, knowing the language landscape in Puerto Rico’s healthcare system is key for a successful transition. To ensure effective communication, English speakers should be prepared to invest time in learning basic Spanish or seek assistance from bilingual acquaintances or translator services if needed.

Cost of Living and Healthcare Expenses

The cost of living in Puerto Rico is, on average, 8.3% lower than in the United States, which is one of the reasons many people consider relocating to this Caribbean island. Rent, specifically, is around 46.9% lower than what one would typically pay in the mainland US. When planning a move to Puerto Rico, it’s essential to factor in healthcare costs and understand how the system operates.

Healthcare in Puerto Rico is relatively affordable, with costs considerably lower than in the mainland United States. Residents can potentially save up to 30% on healthcare expenses. However, it is crucial to recognize that the quality of care and available services can vary across the island. The highest-quality healthcare facilities are typically found in the capital city, San Juan.

As for health insurance, Puerto Rico has both public and private options. The public option, known as the Puerto Rico Health Reform, provides coverage primarily to low-income citizens. Those eligible for this system will have access to a wide range of services, including primary care, specialist consultations, and hospitalizations. For those who prefer or require private insurance, numerous options are available, offering various coverage levels and price points.

It’s important to note that the standard of medical care in Puerto Rico is similar to that of the United States, with most healthcare professionals being well-trained and bilingual in English and Spanish. However, some rural areas might have fewer resources and may require patients to travel to urban centers for specific treatments and services.

In conclusion, the cost of living in Puerto Rico is generally lower than in the United States, and this extends to healthcare expenses as well. Healthcare is affordable, with a range of public and private insurance options, allowing residents to choose the most suitable coverage for their needs. The quality and availability of care might vary depending on location, but overall, healthcare in Puerto Rico is reliable and accessible to its residents.

Emergency Services

In Puerto Rico, calling 911 is the primary method for accessing emergency services. The island has a similar emergency response system to the mainland United States, ensuring that residents and visitors can receive prompt assistance during emergencies.

Emergency medical services in Puerto Rico are equipped to handle a variety of situations, from accidents and injuries to severe illnesses. Ambulance services are available, with both private and public providers operating on the island. It is crucial to know that ambulance response times may vary depending on your location, particularly in rural areas. Therefore, it’s essential to provide accurate information to the 911 operator to help facilitate a quicker response.

In addition to emergency medical services, Puerto Rico has a well-trained police force and firefighting department ready to respond to various emergencies. The island’s police force operates similarly to those in the mainland United States, with dedicated officers ensuring public safety and order. Firefighters are also equipped and prepared to handle emergencies such as fires, rescues, and natural disasters.

Public hospitals in Puerto Rico provide emergency care, though it’s important to note that the quality of healthcare facilities can vary throughout the island. Urban areas, such as San Juan, generally have better-equipped hospitals with highly-trained staff. In contrast, more rural hospitals may face challenges like limited resources and staffing. For this reason, it is advisable to research the available healthcare facilities in your area before moving to ensure you have access to the appropriate emergency care.

Remember to be prepared and informed about the healthcare system in Puerto Rico to ensure you receive the necessary assistance during emergencies. By familiarizing yourself with the emergency services available on the island, you can confidently and safely make Puerto Rico your new home.

Relocating to Puerto Rico

When considering relocating to Puerto Rico, it is essential for new residents to understand the various aspects of living on the island, such as housing and utilities, transportation, and education and schools.

Housing and Utilities

While the cost of living in Puerto Rico is generally lower than the mainland US, housing prices can vary significantly across the island. Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment can range from $500 to $1500, depending on the location and amenities. Utility costs are another factor to keep in mind; electricity rates can be higher than the US average due to the island’s isolated power grid. However, other utility costs, such as water and gas, are relatively affordable.


Transportation options in Puerto Rico include both public transportation and private vehicles. Public transportation mostly consists of buses, which cover major cities and towns. However, the bus system schedules can be unreliable, making it difficult to rely on public transportation for daily commuting.

For those who prefer to drive, obtaining a Puerto Rican driver’s license is necessary within 30 days of moving. The requirements for a license in Puerto Rico include an eye exam, a written exam, and payment of a $10 fee. It is advised to make an appointment with CESCO online before you start the process.

As for cars, new residents should be prepared for the cost of importing their vehicle or purchasing a new one on the island. Traffic can be heavy, particularly in urban areas, and road conditions can vary, making it important for drivers to be cautious and patient.

Education and Schools

Puerto Rico has a diverse range of educational options for families, with both public and private schools available. Public schools offer free education and follow a curriculum similar to the mainland US. However, the primary language of instruction is Spanish, so non-Spanish-speaking students may face a language barrier. On the other hand, many private schools offer bilingual education and follow international curriculums.

Before moving to Puerto Rico, it is essential to research the available schools and their admission processes to ensure a smooth transition for your children. Online resources and local community groups can provide valuable insights and recommendations regarding school selection and the overall education system of Puerto Rico.

Culture and Lifestyle

Puerto Rico is a vibrant island with a rich history and a mix of cultures, blending Spanish, African, and indigenous Taino influence. This unique blend of cultures is evident in the island’s delicious food, art, and music.

The island’s stunning natural beauty is also a significant part of its appeal, with picturesque beaches and an extensive coastline perfect for relaxation and water sports. In contrast, Puerto Rico’s lush rainforests and mountains offer a myriad of outdoor activities, such as hiking and birdwatching.

Furthermore, Puerto Rico has developed a strong tourism industry, thanks to its welcoming atmosphere, intriguing history, and vibrant arts scene. Visitors can explore centuries-old forts, such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro, attend festivals celebrating traditional music and dance, or visit museums showcasing the island’s fascinating heritage.

Tax Incentives

Puerto Rico offers various tax incentives for individuals and businesses looking to relocate to the island. These incentives can significantly reduce tax liabilities and create a more favorable financial environment. Two crucial tax incentives are covered in this section: Act 60 and retirement plans.

Act 60

Act 60 is a comprehensive tax incentives code that replaced the previous Acts 20 and 22. It aims to attract investment and stimulate economic growth in Puerto Rico. It offers several benefits, including reduced tax rates for eligible individuals and businesses:

  • Individual investors: Act 60 provides a 100% tax exemption on long-term capital gains, interest, and dividends earned by individuals who relocate to Puerto Rico and meet specific residency requirements.
  • Businesses: Companies can benefit from a 4% income tax rate on eligible income and 0% tax on dividends and distributions derived from their Puerto Rican operations.

These tax benefits are particularly advantageous for sole proprietorships, contracts, licensing, and other business activities. Businesses must meet specific requirements to qualify, such as having a physical presence on the island and generating at least 50% of their gross revenue from Puerto Rican sources. They must also submit an annual report, maintain accurate financial records, and withhold U.S. tax on payments to non-resident service providers using IRS Form W-8BEN-E.

Retirement Plans

Puerto Rico has separate tax laws governing retirement plans. These laws apply to Puerto Rican residents who participate in tax-qualified employment-based retirement plans. Some key aspects of Puerto Rican retirement plans include:

  • Contribution limits: Participants can contribute a maximum of $15,000 per year to their retirement plans, subject to certain adjustments for inflation and other factors.
  • Taxation of withdrawals: Distributions from a Puerto Rico tax-qualified retirement plan are subject to local income tax at regular rates, which generally range from 7% to 33%. However, participants may be eligible for a partial tax exemption on plan distributions, depending on their age and other factors.

It is essential for individuals and businesses considering relocation to Puerto Rico to understand these tax incentives and their respective eligibility requirements. Proper planning and compliance with local tax laws can significantly reduce their tax liabilities while taking advantage of Puerto Rico’s attractive financial environment.

Visiting Puerto Rico

Travel Documents

While planning a trip to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, it’s important for travelers to know about the required travel documents. As Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the USA, US citizens don’t require a passport or visa for entry. However, foreign visitors may need a US visa issued by the U.S. Embassy in their country of origin[^3^].


Upon arrival in Puerto Rico, visitors should be aware of the customs regulations that apply. As the island is a part of the United States, there are no customs procedures for US citizens traveling to the island or returning back to the mainland US[^3^]. For foreign visitors, standard U.S. customs rules apply, and it is crucial to declare any goods as required by law.

Tourist Attractions

Puerto Rico offers a variety of tourist attractions, particularly in its capital city of San Juan. The Old San Juan district is a popular destination, featuring historic sites, colorful architecture, and charming cobblestone streets.

Some notable attractions in San Juan include:

  • Forts of San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal: Displaying the island’s rich colonial history, these forts provide visitors with a glimpse into the past and offer breathtaking views of the ocean.
  • El Yunque National Forest: One of the most visited destinations in Puerto Rico, this lush, tropical rainforest boasts a variety of hiking trails and waterfalls, encouraging visitors to explore its natural beauty.
  • Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico: An excellent place for art enthusiasts, the museum showcases an extensive collection of Puerto Rican and Caribbean art, spanning from the 17th century to the present.

With its vibrant culture, year-round tropical climate, and diverse attractions, Puerto Rico has become a popular destination for visitors seeking a unique Caribbean experience[^2^].

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