Chile Medical Insurance
The narrow, mountainous nation of Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous countries. It is the world’s largest producer of copper, the increasing demand for which has enabled the Chilean economy to remain robust in otherwise uneven times for the continent. Chile’s borders, running along the west coast of the Andes against Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and the Pacific Ocean, give the nation an unusual shape and incredible environmental diversity. The Chilean climate ranges in the north from the most arid desert in the world, the Atacama, through a Mediterranean climate in the centre, to the snowy Alpine meadow climate of Patagonia in the south, complete with glaciers, fjords and lakes. The variety of recreational activities such an environment can provide, in addition to the sophisticated urban pleasures of the capital Santiago, has enabled Chile to develop an attractive and diverse tourism industry.
Chile’s health care system incorporates both public and private medical services. Employees are required to participate in either health care system, with a mandatory payment of a percentage of their salaries and wages. Since 1981, all employees and retirees make a health contribution roughly equal to 7% of their taxable revenue. Workers can choose to pay this mandatory tax deduction through the public or private system. Private insurance companies encourage people to pay a variable extra on top of this 7% to upgrade on the basic health care package. This contribution is optional for the self-employed. In the case of persons who cannot afford to pay for coverage, these individuals often receive free medical attention in primary health care clinics operated by the municipalities or in hospitals that are included as part of the public health care system. The public sector covers over 60% of the population, largely the urban and rural poor, the lower-middle class and retirees. Another 10% are covered through other public occupational allowances (examples: the army or through university). Work-related injuries in heavy industry are generally treated in special hospitals and clinics called "Mutuales de Seguridad" that are financed through mandatory employer contributions.
Chile’s public health care system is financed through FONASA (National Health Fund or Fondo Nacional de Salud) and delivered by the National Health Services System or Sistema Nacional de Servicios de Salud (SNSS) as well as the Municipal System for Primary Care. The Ministry of Health presides over both semi-autonomous bodies and establishes national health policies, plans, and norms according to government directives. SNSS health facilities receive diagnosis-based payments from FONASA for the most frequent maladies and a payment-for-service system with other diagnoses. Municipal clinics are funded through a per-capita system that measures the registered population, its socio-economic characteristics and the volume of services delivered.
Those who contribute to FONASA can receive treatment through the public health care system or alternatively, they can choose a private health care provider and make a co-payment. The amount of the required co-payment is proportional to the income level of the beneficiary. Higher income clients must contribute a higher co-payment. This has had some negative repercussions as many higher-income clients use this as a disincentive and opt out of the system. Those that cannot afford to pay, as mentioned earlier, are still granted access to primary care facilities.
The private health care services in Chile are handled through ISAPRES (Instituciones de Salud Previsionales), private institutions that collect and administer the mandatory health contribution from citizens who decide to be insured by the private sector, instead of FONASA. Chile Health insurance plans through an ISAPRE function like a typical private health care policy. The plans are distinguished by the amount of the co-payments and should feature health coverage above and beyond the care provided through FONASA. The benefits offered vary depending on the premium paid, and the age and a physician’s assessment of the beneficiary. These private plans however must include all the types of health care provided by the public system. The ISAPRES work through a network of private health care providers and facilities that are either independent or contractually linked to them. Those who need access to these facilities without health insurance will be faced with expensive costs.
Travelers to Chile should expect good medical facilities in Santiago and other major cities. Chile’s government has instituted certain mandatory medical facility standards. Funds will only be given to clinics, medical centers and hospitals that have been accredited by the Ministry of Health and comply with established quality controls. Pharmacies are normally well-stocked with the quality of drug expected in industrialized countries. Major hospitals accept credit cards, but many doctors and hospitals in Chile expect immediate payment in cash. Expatriates in Chile will need to have an international medical insurance program that will allow for treatment in Chile, and back in their home country. Enrolling into the local system if one is there long enough is possible, a RUT (Rol Unico Tributario) or a Tax Identification Number is required. For outdoor excursions, be warned that more remote areas may not offer adequate assistance. It is recommended you include a medical evacuation rider. Should you encounter certain life-threatening emergency conditions, you could be airlifted to a country with state-of-the-art facilities.
Visitors should be aware of the natural hazards than can occur in Chile. On February 27th 2010 an immense 8.8 magnitude earthquake erupted 285 miles south west of Santiago, killing over 400 people. The infrastructure and travel routes have since largely recovered but Chile’s proximity to tectonic fault lines ensures that future serious earthquakes are always a possibility. Precautions are made, building regulations require new structures to take account of seismic risks, but old buildings could be susceptible to collapse.
In the winter, the smog in Santiago becomes a health risk. The city declares pre-emergency or emergency states when the level of air pollution is dangerously high, and takes measures to limit emissions. Chile has one of the lowest violent crime rates in South America but beware of pickpockets and other thefts in well-traveled public areas. Ensure that all your vaccinations are up to date before traveling to Chile. Immunizations against tetanus-diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) should be updated, if necessary, before departure. There have been very sporadic cases of cholera outside Santiago and typhoid and Hepatitis B are fairly common, especially during the warmer seasons, which last from December to March in Chile.
Pacific Prime will consult and offer a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs should you plan to travel to Chile. We offer a wide variety of health care plans and travel insurance policies with possible benefit packages including dental, maternity, inpatient, outpatient, specialist consultations, and many more. Please contact our professional advisors today for a free quote and enjoy the security that our extensive Global Health Insurance Plans can provide.