UPDATE (4/7/2010): For an update on specific costs and procedures, go HERE
As of May 1st both tourists and temporary residents will have to purchase an insurance policy along with their visas. Up until know, if tourists sought medical attention, they were charged for services on the spot. Temporary residents would presumably have been covered by the state system, at least if they were students. It was, however, a good idea to have a private insurance, so that you could be seen at the well-supplied hard-currency facilities, which otherwise charged US prices for the visit. (I personally contracted with a European insurance company called Europe Assistance, which had an agreement with its Cuban equivalent). Now, proof of valid insurance will be required from everybody entering the country. Obviously because of the US embargo, insurance policies with US companies are not valid for Cuba, but many international travelers’ insurance companies are (supposedly Cuba will publish a list of those).
Cuba has ASISTUR, which offers temporary policies to foreigners at competitive rates and also operates as a representative of non-Cuban companies, like the aforementioned Europe Assistance. But will hospitals like Havana’s hard-currency Cira Garcia be ready for the increased number of patients (hey, if you get an insurance policy you might as well go check on those minor ailments you’ve been putting off…). ASISTUR actually worked very well: since it is a Cuban company they cover everything upfront… But now with the avalanche of new insurees, will they be ready?
Although most of us, citizens of Europe and North America, might not have heard of such a regulation before anywhere (at least I had not), turns out that Europe has been imposing it since 2006. For visitors to the European Union from many countries, the requirements for a Schengen Visa (valid for all countries within the EU) include proof of a travel medical insurance. Such a health insurance must be recognized by the EU, have offices in a EU country, ensure cadaver repatriation costs, and medical expenses up to $42,888. Many US carriers like Blue Cross Blue Shield Wold wide services operate in Europe. Otherwise there are many companies that will offer insurance starting at $1/day. But because of the US embargo, this means an extra hurdle for US citizens visiting Cuba.
Here is the actual regulation as it appears in Cuba’s Gaceta Oficial:
You can read a translation into English HERE.
Concerning costs, rumors range from a few dollars a day to fifty dollars a month, but nothing has been officially set. Nothing is known as of yet concerning the international travel insurance companies that will be accepted. Currently, Havanatur (in the US, Marazul travel) sells travel insurance for $5/day (plus a service fee). For a more specific estimate of how much such an insurance currently costs if you have special needs, you can enter your data on the ASISTUR page designed to that effect.
* According to a Montreal-based blog written by a Cuban expatriate, in a post dated today (Sunday, march 7th), Cuban consulates abroad will add a “certification of insurance” to the visa. For Canadian residents and citizens, whose insurance covers them while abroad, including Cuba, the cost of such certification will be between 30 and 50 Canadian dollars. So they will not have to buy extra insurance if they already have a valid one, but they will still have to pay for the certification… U.S. nationals, obviously, will have to buy the extra insurance no matter what…
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