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Chile - Health Service
Chile’s health service system is ranked 33 out of 190 countries by the World Health Organization, meaning migrants traveling or moving to Chile should not be worried about getting quality health care. Most of the advanced health institutions are located in the big cities like Santiago. The rural part of Chile also has a couple of clinics that will attend to general medical needs.
Public Versus Private Healthcare
Public healthcare institutions consist of government funded hospitals. All public hospitals in Chile are managed by the country’s national health insurance scheme, FONASA. This scheme is funded by taxpayer money, and ensures that citizens receive the best healthcare possible, including subsidized rates in select number of clinics.
Private health institutions, on the other hand, are comprised of privately run clinics. They are funded by insurance companies that are collectively managed by Instituciones de Salud Previsional or ISAPRE. The type of health insurance a patient holds will determine which private clinic they are referred to. Insurance is issued based on income, sex, age and family medical background, as well as any existing medical condition among other factors.
Generally, private clinics offer advanced medical care compared to public hospitals. Even within private clinics, you will find varying levels of healthcare services. Nevertheless, the level of treatment provided matches American or European standards.
Getting Treatment In Chile
Chileans and migrants are required to have health insurance to access public or private healthcare. Health insurance can only be provided if you hold a Chilean tax identification number. Expats who hold an international health insurance policy will also be allowed to receive medical care.
Expats with Chilean residency can apply for the same identification number granted to Chileans, the RUN. Expats without residency must apply for RUT, which is the tax ID card reserved for international workers. In addition, only expats with residency have access to both public and private healthcare. Expats with an RUT card can only seek medical attention in private clinics.
While seeking health service in Chile, it is important that you become familiar with the terms Hospital and Clinica. Medical centers labeled Hospital are likely to be government funded. In contrast, Clinicas are generally the private health centers managed by insurance companies. Medical cases are attended to in terms of urgency. A patient with severe respiratory problems will receive priority over those with a complaint like the flu.
Seeking A Doctor
All expats are required to carry a signed medical form, called a pagare, when visiting the hospital. This form is a guarantee that you are able to take care of relevant medical expenses. In addition, carry your RUT or RUN card before attending a doctor’s appointment. A passport with international health insurance details will suffice.
All payments are charged to a credit card once the patient receives medical care. Paying in cash or debit cards is acceptable, although not all clinics will accept such modes of payment. If your health insurance provider is not based in Chile, you are likely to be charged differently from the patient with Chilean insurance cover.
Ensure you retain all your medical bills, including doctor’s reports and recommendations. You will present these to your health insurance provider for reimbursement. Private care in Chile can be expensive if you opt to pay with cash. Therefore, it is better to plan for health insurance cover before traveling to the country.
Remember, most public hospitals have doctors who speak the local language only. English speaking medical practitioners can be found in city hospitals attended by migrant communities. Consult your fellow expats for recommendations of doctors who speak your language. You can also check with your foreign affairs consulate for a list of hospitals and doctors who speak English.
Pharmacies are the only businesses that sell over the counter medicines in Chile. You will not find a street shop or supermarket selling painkillers or antidepressants. Pharmacies in Chile are well stocked with all kinds of medication.
As an expat, it is a good idea to carry your own medication before travelling to Chile. This is important, especially if you are being treated for a condition that requires a specific type of drug. However, it should not be that difficult to find the same type of medication from a Chilean pharmacy. In fact, you may find some drugs in local Chilean drug stores that may not be available in your home country.
Ensure you carry a doctor’s prescription to present to the pharmacy attendant. Most pharmacy attendants are well trained and will be able to assist anyone who comes to them for help. If the local pharmacy attendant does not speak your language, get a translator or have a doctor write the prescription in the local language.
Those travelling to Chile are often advised to be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, tetanus-diphtheria, and typhoid. You can also be vaccinated against measles, rubella, and mumps to be on the safe side. If you are going to spend time around animals or near a forest, a rabies shot may be required. Find out from your foreign affairs consulate if there are updates on diseases outbreaks you need to be aware of.
Fortunately, tap water in Chile is safe for drinking. However, if you will be spending time in the rural areas, be sure to use bottled water until you become accustomed to the local water. When looking for food, consider eating from restaurants and cafes, where the food is hygienically prepared. This does not mean you should shy away from the local delicacies served by street vendors. Ensure your food is prepared on the spot and within sight before you are served.
In addition, be cautious about dairy products while in Chile, as the market is saturated with dairy companies. If living in the coastal towns, only eat seafood that is properly prepared in a hygienic environment.
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Expat Health Insurance Partners
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