Although healthcare itself is free in Brazil, including for foreigners, supplementing this with private health insurance is highly advisable. This is because the public healthcare system is under strain, meaning you could face long waiting times, poorer quality of care, and a lack of specialist medical assistance. Occasionally, it may be a prerequisite that you acquire private health insurance for your visa or employment contract, although this is not usually the case in Brazil.Sometimes employers may pay for your private healthcare. This may only cover you, or it may cover you and your family, providing they are dependants. Alternatively, you may be responsible for the cost of your insurance yourself. Whether you decide to purchase private health insurance or not, you can still access free public healthcare if you need it at any time during your stay in Brazil.
Private health insurance in Brazil
There are a myriad of insurance companies in Brazil, offering all the main types of health and medical policies to expatriates. For example, they offer private health insurance policies and health/medical plans, prepaid group practice plans, medical cooperatives and company health plans. All Brazilian issued health plans (planos de saúde) are strictly regulated by the Agência Nacional de Saúde Suplementar (ANS), which works on behalf of the Ministry of Health. You can visit the ANS website for more details.
There are also international companies that offer various private health insurance policies for expatriates. Some of the most popular providers include Allianz Partners International, Aetna, and Cigna. A global insurance, or one issued from your home country to cover Brazil, can surprisingly often work out cheaper for you than a Brazilian-issued insurance.
Health plan vs health insurance
Health plans are usually restricted to specific regions, such as a particular city or state. Brazilian health insurance schemes, however, are different; they usually cover the entire country. They also allow you to choose your doctor/s and hospital/s, unlike health plans.
Health plans usually detail pre-agreed physicians and medical facilities that you can attend. Because of this, they often work out cheaper than health insurance. Your decision about what to get will depend on the nature of your work and where you will be living. If you are unwilling to use public healthcare should you fall ill outside of your covered region, it may be better to get insurance.
Group medical insurance plans consist of treatment provided by doctors and at medical facilities that have been approved by your insurance company. These plans typically offer good value for money, but are also limited to a specified geographical location, as well as, often, a specific network of doctors / medical centres.
Medical cooperatives commonly represent groups of doctors who own a hospital collectively, meaning members would be covered by these doctors at these medical establishments alone, but would often receive a good price.
Why consider using private health insurance
For the most part, expatriates generally opt for private health insurance for a better quality of care. Depending on how long you have been in Brazil and the contributions you have made, you may or may not be entitled to social welfare. The social welfare system covers instances such as:
• Sickness and injury
• Survivor/death benefits
• Unemployment benefits
Therefore, if you are not likely to be covered by social welfare, you will need private health insurance to cover yourself and your dependent family members in these instances. Although private health insurance may seem excessively expensive to some, if you are not covered by social welfare, it can end up saving you a lot of money, especially if you are unable to work.
Insurance costs and claim process
The precise cost of your health cover will depend on a number of factors, such as your insurance provider, your desired level of coverage, and the region you want to be covered in. It will also depend on your individual health and fitness levels, your age, your weight, whether you smoke or drink, and whether you have any chronic illnesses, past illnesses, undiagnosed conditions, repetitive strain injuries or potentially hereditary health conditions or defects.
Always read your policy thoroughly before you sign it, and declare all of your previous medical history. Neglecting to declare previous medical history can lead to a decline in cover further down the road.
You should also check the excess on your insurance policy, as sometimes you can select a higher excess in exchange for a cheaper monthly payment on your health and medical cover.
Required documents for health insurance
In order to apply for health insurance, you will need following documents:
• Passport details
• Foreigner’s identity number (Registro Nacional De Estrangeiro/RNE), if applicable and if you are applying from within Brazil
• Individual tax payers number (Cadastro de Pessoa Física/CPF), if applicable and if you are applying from within Brazil
You may also require a signed form of confirmation from your doctor regarding your previous medical history or any chronic/recurring illness or injuries.
Some insurance providers may only offer reimbursement after treatment has finished and the claim has been checked and processed. In this instance, if you (or your covered dependants) do require medical treatment, make sure you obtain a receipt for the cost of this, in case your insurance requires proof before they can process your claim for reimbursement. Carefully consider this, and the other aforementioned factors, before deciding on the policy you wish to purchase.