Chile healthcare system

Learn About the Healthcare System & Medical Insurance Options for Expats in Chile

From the driest desert in the world to inverted waterfalls in the south, Chile boasts some of the world’s most diverse landscapes. The country has mesmerizing conservation parks, and it is also an increasingly popular destination among expats. Similarly, when it comes to healthcare, Chile boasts one of the most advanced healthcare systems in the whole of South America. Here’s what you need to know about the Chile healthcare system and medical insurance options for expats.

According to the World Health Organization, Chile ranks 33rd out of 190 countries in terms of standards of healthcare. Robust public and private medical providers offer healthcare services to residents and expats alike. However, the quality of healthcare may vary in different geographical locations, especially in remote areas with understandably less advanced medical facilities. Santiago, particularly, has one of the best medical care facilities in the country, but they are also costly. Therefore, expats often go for international health insurance, which is comprehensive and cost-effective at the same time.

The CDC has more information on vaccinations and medicines you should know before traveling to Chile.

Overview of Healthcare in Chile

The healthcare system in Chile has a two-tier system – public and private. Public hospitals in Chile usually have longer wait times, and thus expats go for private healthcare. Most doctors in this country specialize in a particular aspect of medicine. Therefore, the concept of a local family doctor is not uncommon in Chile. Most of the medical professionals in Chile are trained in developed countries like Canada, the United States of America, and other First World countries. An English-speaking physician is easier to find in the larger cities of Chile as compared to rural towns and villages.

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How the Chilean Healthcare System Works for Expats

If you are an expat in Chile, you must get a healthcare plan. If you are a working professional, you spend 7% of your income on your healthcare plan. For medical insurance in Chile, you’ll need a Chilean ID number. It’s important to remember that you cannot access either private or public healthcare services without an ID. In case you’ve come to Chile only recently, you can register yourself with a private insurer, ISAPRE (Instituciones de Salud Previsional), and they can issue you a temporary number to start your plan. Both public and private healthcare centers provide emergency services to expats.

Before expats travel to Chile, they must get vaccinated for hepatitis A, typhoid, and even for hepatitis B and rabies in some cases. Expats should consult a doctor before leaving for Chile for the most up-to-date health information.

Public Healthcare in Chile

Chile’s public healthcare sector operates on FONASA (Fondo Nacional de Salud), which is a National Health Insurance plan. After deducting a mandatory 7% of their employees’ income, employers handle the expenses for the medical treatment of their workers. Under this plan, a patient can seek treatments at subsidized rates. In Chile, there are four plans available: Plan A is for the unemployed, older people above 60 years of age, and people earning less than the fixed minimum wages. On the other hand, plans B, C, and D come with varying levels of subsidies based on a patient’s income.

Private Healthcare in Chile

Chile’s private healthcare sector consists of insurance providers ISAPRE (Instituciones de Salud Previsional). The medical plans chosen by patients coming for treatment determine which clinics and doctors are available to them. The medical benefits provided by an insurance company depend primarily on the income, sex, and medical history of the concerned person and their existing health conditions. Compared to other private healthcare facilities in developed nations, Chile’s private healthcare sector is relatively affordable.

Emergency Medical Services in Chile

Most hospitals in Chile have emergency healthcare facilities as well as ambulances. However, expats need to be aware that all emergency medical services are not available 24/7. Though medical evacuation is possible in Chile, it usually costs a lot of money. Therefore, expats must buy international health insurance policies to ensure that all the medical costs are covered in case of severe injuries and medical emergencies.

Medicines and Pharmacies

Most pharmacies in Chile are operational 24 hours a day. Plus, the pharmacists are professionals. Most medications that require a prescription are readily available in Chile pharmacies. Expats should note down the generic names of any prescription medicine as brand names vary from country to country.

Best Private International Medical Insurance Plans for Expats in Chile

Expats who are planning to move to Chile or are currently living there should think about getting international health insurance.  They should also ensure their policy covers medical expenses and evacuation in case of an emergency. Out of the multiple private medical plans, those offered by Cigna Global and Allianz International are generally accepted by healthcare institutions based in Chile.

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