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Health Service

Brazil - Health Service

Brazil provides free public health care to its citizens. In addition, the country has a private healthcare sector that is rapidly growing. The private healthcare sector offers health insurance and supplementary health programs.

The government offers the Unified Healthcare System, which offers a wide range of free health care that Brazilian citizens can access without registration. Foreign and local residents can also access the healthcare service. The free public health care system has been in place since 1988. Before then, health insurance was the reserve of the employed, leaving a huge population without access to healthcare. In a bid to enhance equality in healthcare access, the government introduced free public healthcare programs that are funded by other sectors of the government. The free healthcare cover caters for hospital accommodation, doctors’ fees, laboratory fees, drugs, and surgeries.

Despite the good intentions and the various sources of finance allocated to the healthcare system, the budget is not enough to cover the growing population. This has made the condition of most public hospitals deplorable and caused shortages of staff and medical equipment. The long queues in public hospitals have made most people who can afford private hospitals shift to obtaining healthcare from private hospitals.

Expats are advised to consider signing up for private health insurance plans to avoid the risk of having to rely on public medical treatment, especially in emergency cases. Over the last few decades, the increase in the number of expats in Brazil has indirectly led to an increase in the number of private health insurance providers in the country. Currently, more than 20 percent of the population has access to supplementary health plans.

Private healthcare can either be obtained as a work benefit or bought individually. It is readily available to people as long as they have the financial capacity and are willing to pay. Private and public healthcare plans are strictly controlled by the Agencia Nacional de Saude Suplementar, which acts as a representative of the Ministry of Health. They fulfill the minimum requirements, which include coverage of certain hospitals and doctors. It is important to remember that some healthcare plans are restricted to certain regions.

The many healthcare plans available can confuse you when you are trying to select your preferred cover. The ANS offers an overview of all the available plans and their premium rates. Many expats find it difficult to choose a healthcare plan because of the great choices available. It is important to outline your healthcare priorities before you start the decision-making process. You need to decide whether you want to cover inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or both. In addition, decide whether you want regional or national coverage. Also, determine if you will need dental coverage. Once you have noted down the packages you would like covered, browse through the ANS website to compare healthcare service providers, available programs, and their costs. However, it is important to know that most of the information provided on this website is in Portuguese. Remember, many healthcare insurance providers only cover residents of certain cities. Therefore, be sure to look at city-related websites for additional information.

Free choice of doctors and hospitals is only offered by private insurance policies. Healthcare plans are predetermined by hospitals and physicians. General insurance companies provide private health insurance. No matter which plan you select, dental treatment is often excluded and you have to buy it separately. Purchasing private insurance does not exempt you from accessing free public health care. This comes in handy if you find yourself in a remote area where there are no private hospitals. If you choose not to buy private health insurance, you can still access private health services, which you can pay for separately. The downside is that the medical fees tend to be a bit expensive.

A common option used by foreigners staying in Brazil is purchasing private insurance from their home country that covers treatment and services in Brazil. This can end up being a cheaper alternative for people who are in Brazil for a limited period. A common feature in most insurance schemes for non-resident citizens is limiting cover up to a certain age. Foreigners are advised to ensure that they get various vaccinations as preventive measures. Vaccinations are not compulsory for US and European citizens going to Brazil, but there are a few exceptions.

If you have been in a country with a high risk of yellow fever for more than three months before your arrival in Brazil, you will need an international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever. There are states such as Amapa, Golas, MatoGrosso, Acre, Amazonas, Minas Gerais, Rondonia, Goias, and Distrito Federal that have experienced an increase in cases of yellow fever, making the yellow fever vaccine a wise precaution. The vaccine takes about ten days to become effective. Caution needs to be maintained when vaccinating infants between the age of six months and one year, as side effects regularly occur. Children between six months and three years can also get vaccinations against polio.

The tropical and subtropical regions experience many cases of dengue fever and malaria. Infections of dengue and malaria have been on the increase; both diseases are caused by mosquito bites. Take extra precaution when visiting these regions by wearing long, light colored clothes and by using mosquito repellent both during the day and at night. Make sure you sleep under a treated mosquito net.

When in Brazil, be careful about what you eat or drink to avoid getting sick. Do not drink tap water unless you either boil or sterilize it. Make sure you thoroughly cook meat, vegetables, and fish. Wash fruits thoroughly and peel them before eating. In addition, be sure to only eat dairy products that are made with pasteurized milk. It is common to find people in rural areas consuming unpasteurized milk. Do not fall into this temptation.

Brazil has a publicly funded ambulance service that is available all over the country and is free to all citizens. The ambulances are packed with different equipment to handle a wide range of injuries and diseases. To request an ambulance, contact 192 and if you are speaking English, try to speak slowly so that the phone operator can understand you.

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Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.