Learn About the Uruguay Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats
Uruguay is the second smallest country in the South American continent. It lies between Argentina to the west and Brazil to the north. The nation’s stable democracy and the social benefits have expats flocking to Uruguay. There’s a long-standing history between Uruguay and Switzerland since establishing diplomatic relations in 1828. The country has taken inspiration from Switzerland in terms of government, history, and culture. In the 1950s, The New York Times called Uruguay as ‘Switzerland of South America.’
Uruguay is the third-best country in South America. The UN regards it as a high-income country. First-world healthcare standards are not new in Uruguay and provide medical care on par with international standards. Expats can further secure their health in the country by opting for a comprehensive international health insurance plan. Click here for more details about healthcare in Uruguay from the CDC.
Overview of Healthcare System
In Uruguay, citizens and expats can opt from a variety of healthcare options. Those who cannot afford treatment in the private sector choose the public healthcare system instead. Public sector hospitals and clinics operate throughout the country. Another unique medical care option that citizens and expats can opt for is the healthcare plan called Mutualista. It is an affordable private hospital membership plan that is easily accessible by residents and expatriates.
Following the introduction of the private hospital membership plan called Mutualista, a large number of people moved from the public healthcare system to the private medical care system. The scheme is a massive success with citizens as well as expats.
Since Uruguay is a Spanish-speaking country, it’s difficult to find medical staff who can converse fluently in English. British Hospital is the only exception. More than half the medical personnel and doctors here speak basic English. Some hospitals also have English-speaking phone receptionists who you can reach by dialing nine after the phone number. On the other hand, private clinics have English-speaking doctors and admin personnel. Most of the time, expats resort to using the services of an interpreter or even a bilingual friend.
What is Mutualista and How Mutualista Works?
Mutualista was Uruguay’s answer to affordable and good quality private hospital care for its citizens and visitors. The scheme works as follows: One has to apply to become a member of a private hospital’s plan. To become a member, one will pay a monthly membership fee to the hospital. On being accepted by the hospital, it provides the member with complete healthcare — right from regular physician visits to emergency room care and major surgery.
Mutualista does not charge a lifetime cap or any premium like a regular health insurance plan. On the other hand, it includes discounts on medications. It is the private hospitals that offer Mutualistas, and each of them has its standards and rules regarding age and pre-existing medical conditions. The Mutualista scheme does not cover optometry, non-emergency dental work, and visits to a psychologist.
How the Uruguayan Healthcare Works for Expats
All expats and travelers in Uruguay can benefit from the Mutualista healthcare option. To be able to use the system, they have to apply for membership and pay a monthly fee towards it. Most expats and foreign visitors feel comfortable going to the British Hospital in Montevideo and consider it the best medical facility in Uruguay. It has a vast majority of English-speaking staff and provides both consultations as well as significant surgeries with a shorter wait time.
Asociación Española is another medical facility that is popular with expats. It is known for its excellent quality treatment and life-saving therapeutic interventions. There are several small clinics and emergency centers that also cater to the expats, but they are less sophisticated and have communication problems.
Though all expats and visitors to Uruguay can avail benefits of Mutualista, they can also opt for a healthcare insurance policy. They should buy an appropriate plan that takes care of all their medical costs. But really expatriates should get a global health plan and not solely rely on domestic coverage.
Expats can opt for a SUAT membership too. SUAT is the company that offers a mobile medical assistance plan that is especially beneficial for expats and visitors of Uruguay. The SUAT service includes telephonic consultations with a doctor, scheduled house calls, urgent home care, and immediate emergency response.
Public and Private Healthcare in Uruguay
The public healthcare system in Uruguay is operated by the Administration of State Health Services (ASSE). Most big hospitals under the ASSE are located in major cities, while small towns have clinics and hospital auxiliaries to cater to the citizens. The Mutualista facility is available in ASSE, too, by making a regular monthly payment. Procuring an ASSE membership is hassle-free because there are no conditions of age restriction or pre-existing illnesses.
Since the public healthcare system has to cater to fewer patients and is not overcrowded, its quality has improved over the years. Also, the government has been able to allocate more funds towards the improvement of its infrastructure.
The presence of Mutualista in Uruguay puts less pressure on the public healthcare system, due to which its services are of acceptable quality. But those preferring extra services can opt for the private network. The high-end private medical system has several international-standard hospitals headed by their associations. These hospitals have fewer people to cater to and offer a more pleasant environment to heal in.
Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Uruguay
Expats can opt for treatment in either public hospitals in Uruguay or choose the services of a private healthcare facility. But for the medical costs of their treatment to be reimbursed, they will have to purchase an international health insurance policy. It is advised that they obtain an insurance plan that covers charges on all types of medical care.
Those individuals who plan to stay in Uruguay for a short time can opt for short-term health insurance plans. At the same time, the long-term traveler can buy a comprehensive program that covers various types of medical expenses. Before deciding which international health insurance coverage to purchase, expats can take a look at Cigna Global Health and Allianz Care to weigh their options.
Some private insurance companies in Uruguay, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, also provide healthcare plans depending on specific medical conditions. Though opting for such a plan seems economical for short travels, it is always prudent to go for an international health insurance plan that has comprehensive coverage.