How does the state health insurance system work?

Argentina has a three-tier health insurance system consisting of both private and public health cover and a large semi-public health insurance sector. The country has a high standard of healthcare, although this can vary between urban and rural areas, and if you decide to access the private sector, you will find this to be considerably cheaper than the USA. As an employed expat, you will be able to register with the national scheme, which is run by the government and trade unions and is outsourced to different providers, who are competitively priced and are not legally allowed to exclude pre-existing conditions. The healthcare and health insurance systems are very fragmented, however, and measures to streamline both systems are being discussed.

Emergency healthcare is free for everyone and there is also a public scheme which covers around 30% of the Argentinian population, with some charges for medication. As an expat you will be entitled to access this but it is advisable not to rely on it.

If you are employed in Argentina, you will be registered with the semi-public national scheme, the Obras Sociales Nacionales (OSN). This is actually an umbrella term for 300 schemes, which are run by trade unions across the country. Currently, 70% of these OSNs have fewer than 30,000 beneficiaries, and 80% have fewer than 100,000: these schemes are notably inefficient due to their high administrative costs. In addition, insurance experts report that their risk pools are too unstable to deal well with high-cost events.

If you are working in Argentina, registration with one of these schemes is mandatory and you will be required to pay a monthly contribution into this. You will then be able to access public healthcare services. Healthcare itself is run by the Ministry of Health (MSAL). Which insurance provider you are registered with will depend on your sector of employment.

Payroll contributions are collected by the Federal Administration of Public Revenues: this allocates approximately 80%–90% of funds back to the OSN. To compensate for any potential health inequities due to the disparities in earnings for each of the OSNs, there is a redistribution fund (Fondo Solidario de Redistribución / FSR), which is composed of 10%–20% of each payroll contribution and which transfers money from the wealthier OSNs to the poorer ones.

The quality of healthcare in Argentina does vary between rural and urban providers and you may find that the quality of healthcare is significantly better in urban areas than in the countryside. Doctors in rural areas may ask for cash payments upfront for treatment.

You will need to take your ID card with you to medical appointments.

Save On Health Insurance

Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers

Who is eligible for state healthcare?

You will be eligible to sign up with one of the OSNs if you are employed. It is not recommended that expats rely on the fully public system, however, as the quality of healthcare can be variable.

How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?

Your employer will need to register you with one of the OSNs. If you are self employed, it is advisable to contact the Ministry of Health directly as they will be able to advise you depending on your sector.

What is covered by the state health insurance system?

The national scheme covers:

  • GP visits
  • hospital visits and treatment
  • palliative care
  • medically-related transport
  • prosthetics
  • maternity care
  • rehabilitation

You will need to pay out of pocket for your prescriptions and for around 30% of your care if you have a chronic health condition. It is in general a good idea to bring the packaging of any medication with you to the pharmacist, particularly if you are accessing your prescription for the first time.

The semi-public OSN insurance operates on a co-pay system, so you will need to cover the cost of the difference between the fixed fee of treatment and the amount charged by your provider.

Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?

Argentina is increasingly popular as a retirement destination and you may be able to register with one of the OSNs. However, expat retirees report long waiting times for some medical treatment and you may therefore wish to take out private health insurance. Currently around 5 million elderly Argentinian citizens, as well as some people with disabilities, are covered by the nationwide social health insurance fund for retired workers (Programa de Asistencia Médica Integral / PAMI), which is broadly comparable to Medicare in the United States. However, you are unlikely to be eligible for this as a retired expat.

Are students covered by state medical insurance?

Students who are resident in Argentina for less than three months will need private travel insurance, but if they are going to be in the country for longer, they can register with one of the OSNs. Your educational institution should be able to provide you with advice and may be affiliated to a particular provider which is student-specific. Costs with the OSNs are around $80-100 per month depending on your age but private cover will depend on how comprehensive the policy is – whether, for instance, it includes medical evacuation.

Will your family be covered by your insurance?

If you are registered with one of the OSNs, your dependents should also be covered by the scheme.

Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?

Basic dental care is covered by state health insurance. For more advanced treatment, you will need to pay out of pocket or take out private dental cover. However, dental treatment in Argentina is significantly less than in the USA.

What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?

You should expect to pay 17% of your gross salary, which constitutes your social security tax and includes health insurance. Your payroll contribution for health insurance specifically will be 3%. Employers will also need to make a contribution of 6% for health insurance.

Why buy private health insurance?

Expats may be concerned about long waiting times and differences in quality of treatment. They may also wish to take out insurance that is geographically comprehensive and which covers them for other countries and for the whole of Argentina. Some local policies cannot be used elsewhere in the country. Coverage that includes medical evacuation may also be advisable.

Save On Health Insurance

Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers

What is covered by private health insurance?

Private insurance will cover routine medical care, and also:

  • dental treatment
  • nutritionists’ advice
  • hospital visits
  • surgery
  • therapy, including mental health treatment
  • prenatal care
  • cosmetic treatment

Argentina is becoming a popular destination for medical tourism, mainly for cosmetic procedures such as liposuction or facelifts, and costs are significantly lower than in the US.

You may also choose to pay out of pocket. Some costs are as follows:

  • appointment with a GP: around 500 pesos (£10 /$13)
  • appointment with a specialist: around 500 – 600 pesos (£10 – £12.6 /$13 – $16)
  • appointment with a dentist: around 500 pesos for a consultation (£10 GBP/$13). The cost of a pivot and crown, for example, may be between 6500 and 9000 pesos (£136 – £190 GBP/€170 to €240)

Argentina has a market in dental tourism, since costs are much cheaper than in the USA. For example, 6 implants + 6 posts + 14 crowns will cost in the region of $10K.

How much does private health insurance cost?

If you choose to take out a plan with a local Argentinian provider, you will find a wide range of policies which are competitively priced: some cost $40-50 per month, for instance, and do not require a great deal of bureaucracy in order to sign up.

However, you must check your policy carefully to see what it covers and whether it is restricted to a particular area of the country.

As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance in Argentina it becomes very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required. However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40 year old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected.

Which companies offer private health insurance?

There are a number of international providers who cover Argentina, including:

  • Aetna International
  • Allianz Care
  • Bupa Global
  • Cigna Global

In addition there are some local insurers, too:

  • Galeno
  • Medicus
  • Omint
  • OSDE

Glossary of health insurance terms

Obras Sociales Nacionales (OSN) – the umbrella of semi-public health insurance schemes

Share to...