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An overview of Latin American healthcare systems

Latin America is made up of many different countries, each of which has its own unique healthcare system. Generally speaking, healthcare services tend to be much cheaper in Latin American countries than in other parts of the world. Universal public healthcare is available in major countries such as Argentina, Columbia, and Chile, making it an attractive destination for healthcare services.

In this Pacific Prime Latin America article, we’ll provide an overview of Latin American healthcare systems to help uncover some important information on healthcare and health insurance in the region.

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Public vs private healthcare

As the region is home to more than 18,000 hospitals, Latin America offers plenty of choices for healthcare. In fact, Brazil is home to more hospitals than in the US alone, while 41% of the top hospitals in Latin America are located in Columbia. The best hospitals in Latin America are located in the larger cities, while facilities in remote and rural areas often do not suffice.

One of the main things you need to think about when you’re looking for a medical service is which facility you should go to. Some countries in Latin America provide free, high-quality healthcare. However, access to quality care in many other countries can prove challenging.

Boasting established healthcare systems, there are places in Latin America where public healthcare is prioritized by the government. Take Brazil, for example. Despite being a poorer country, Brazil’s healthcare system is one that is often praised. Conversely, Argentina’s public healthcare system offers both inpatient and outpatient care to its citizens free of charge. While there is no universal GP system in the country, physician-led care can be found in specialist clinics and hospitals.

The public healthcare systems can certainly be advantageous to locals, though the same often cannot be said for expats. To begin with, foreign nationals and expats may find it difficult to communicate with medical professionals. Since English-speaking doctors are not always available in public facilities, the help of an interpreter may be needed. Even though medical staff are generally well-trained, the inconsistency of inadequate aftercare and nursing has many expats looking for private alternatives instead.

Many expats prefer private facilities because of their high-quality level of care and consistency. Private facilities also tend to have shorter queues and are rarely overcrowded. All in all, the benefits of private healthcare facilities in Latin America make spending a bit more go a long way.

Cost of Healthcare in Latin America

Americans have been going to Latin America for medical treatment for quite some time, with Mexico being one of the most popular options. Cost of healthcare in places such as Mexico. Columbia and Panama are significantly less than in the US, despite offering excellent quality of care.

For instance, visiting a neurosurgeon costs USD $40 in Mexico while visiting a general practitioner costs USD $15 per visit. Moreover, teeth cleanings in a modern facility cost USD $25 each. In fact, Latin American countries such as Panama are quickly becoming the destination of choice for medical tourists who are looking for high-quality medical treatment at affordable costs.

Expats in Costa Rica, which has one of the best public health systems in the world, can access free healthcare for around USD $50-$150. Though the exact cost depends on one’s income, free healthcare includes prescriptions, routine checkups, and even surgery.

Since Latin America consists of multiple countries, it’s best to check out information about the specific country you are currently living in or thinking about relocating to for a more accurate idea of the local cost of healthcare.

Is international health insurance necessary for expats in Latin America?

Expats in Latin America typically do not have the same access to medical assistance as the locals do. Luckily, international health insurance can help expats and their families get the best treatment and medical assistance according to their plan of choice. It is also worth noting that some private hospitals and clinics won’t accept you for treatment unless you can prove that you have private health insurance or enough money to pay for treatment.

In places like Argentina, foreign nationals can receive emergency treatment for free. However, expats might still want to secure private health insurance in case complex conditions arise or to have access to higher-quality private care.

Secure the best health insurance in Latin America

If you’re from a country where purchasing individual health insurance isn’t necessary, such as the UK, then the task of securing a private health insurance plan might seem daunting and confusing. The types of insurance coverage that you can expect from a personal health insurance policy include:

  • Inpatient coverage – This type of coverage, which is also known as hospital insurance coverage, will cover your hospital bills. Health insurance plans usually offer inpatient coverage as a bare minimum.
  • Outpatient coverage – This benefit offers coverage for medical treatment that doesn’t involve hospitalization or an overnight stay, such as General Practitioner (GP) visits.
  • Maternity coverage – This benefit can be added to an insurance plan for those who are planning to conceive a child. This type of insurance covers prenatal and delivery costs, along with postnatal emergency care in some cases. It’s worth noting that maternity coverage has a waiting period of anywhere between 10 to 24 months, so you should secure it prior to getting pregnant.
  • Vision and dental coverage – These two add-ons are popular since they help cover optical and dental expenses.

There are also many other things you’ll need to think about, such as your geographical area of coverage (local or global) and whether you need coverage for pre-existing conditions. If you need help choosing the best health insurance plan, it’s advisable to consult an established broker such as Pacific Prime. Whether you’re looking for family health insurance, retiree health insurance, or anything in between, we are here to help. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, we have the expertise to help you secure the right policy for your needs and budget.

Contact us for a no-obligation, free quote today!

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