Your guide to health insurance in Chile
Moving to Chile can be a daunting task. You will no doubt have a plethora of questions on the healthcare system in Chile. Here in this guide, we will give you a rundown of the public and private healthcare systems, as well as whether private health insurance is necessary in Chile. We will also cover commonly asked questions, such as how expats can access the system and outline the popular Chilean options available.
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Healthcare for expats living and working in Chile
Home to one of the best healthcare systems in South America, Chile operates under a unique mixed public-private healthcare system. The National Health Fund or the Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA) is the statutory health insurance most residents automatically contribute to and are beneficiaries to. The Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE), on the other hand, is a network of privately run health insurance providers. Here, this section gives you an overview of the public and private healthcare systems, as well as how to access them.
The Chilean healthcare system
While high quality and affordable in both the public and private sectors, the quality of healthcare varies greatly depending on which region you are moving to. Facilities in major cities, such as Santiago, tend to be more comprehensive and sophisticated. Many doctors in Chile have also been educated abroad and can speak English, particularly in the private healthcare sector.
How to access the healthcare system?
Before getting into Chile’s unique mixed public-private healthcare system, you should know that you will need a RUN (Rol Único Nacional) or RUT (Rol Único Tributario) identification number to access both the public and private healthcare system. If you are an expat in Chile or considering moving to Chile, you most likely will have come across these acronyms. Simply put, the RUN/RUT is your 8 or 9-digit identification number. For individuals, the RUN and RUT number is exactly the same, while businesses only have the RUT number. You will automatically obtain a RUN/RUT once the Registro Civil issues you your ID card.
Many of the important administrative processes in Chile are only possible with an ID card. This includes buying your medical insurance, buying or selling a house, opening your bank account, etc.
Public healthcare system
Members of the FONASA have access to a network of hospitals, and certain clinics and medical centers. The public healthcare system in Chile provides primary healthcare services at the local level. This includes promotion, prevention, and treatment services (medical, dental, and nursing), with referral to secondary and tertiary care.
Private healthcare system
Private sector services consist of high quality specialized secondary and tertiary care. You are also a lot more likely to see English speakers at private clinics, ensuring a smooth healthcare experience with no communication issues. Certain private facilities have also signed an agreement with the FONASA to provide specialized care for patients.
It’s important to note that as Chilean doctors prefer to specialize, there are no general physicians or family doctors in Chile.
Types of health insurance available in Chile
Statutory healthcare insurance (FONASA)
FONASA pools the monetary contributions of most Chilean citizens into maintaining a public healthcare system in Chile. To keep it afloat, all Chile nationals and residents are required to contribute 7% of their pay or pension to the FONDUSA every month with a cap of UF 4,921 or US $150,000 . As of 2018, this requirement has also been extended to self-employed workers who issue receipts for fees paid to them. Residents who are unable to pay the 7% needed to the FONDUSA are also covered through general taxes.
FONASA beneficiaries include:
- Dependents of contributors. This includes children up to the age of 18 years or students under the age of 24.
- Pregnant women up until the sixth month of the child’s birth.
- Pension beneficiaries of invalidity and old age.
- People with mental disabilities provided that they are not also a cause of family subsidy.
Of course, like all public healthcare systems with a high quality of care, state hospitals can be crowded and plagued with long waiting times. Many residents opt for private cover with private insurers instead.
ISAPRE or Instituciones de Salud Previsional
ISAPRE are privately run health insurance providers. For those who enjoy a shorter waiting time, sophisticated equipment and prefer to seek out English-speaking staff, ISAPRE is the way to go. Private hospitals are also what expats are likely accustomed to. Expats who don’t have residency or are not paying taxes are not covered under the FONASA. For them, ISAPRE is a necessity.
If you happen to be in the Armed Forces, you are also eligible to enroll in their special insurance scheme.
Below are a fraction of all the available ISAPRES you could subscribe to:
- Colmena Golden Cross
- Más Vida
- Vida Tres
- Cruz Blanca
As each ISAPRE covers a wide spectrum of health insurance plans, families, individuals and couples are likely to choose very different ISAPRES. We strongly encourage you to speak with one of our experienced insurance advisors to choose a private health insurance plan that is just right for you and your family. If you are a frequent traveller, international private insurance might just be what you are looking for! It guarantees that you will have the best medical treatments available no matter where you are in the world.
Pharmacies run a lucrative business in Chile and often charge astronomical prices for their drugs. Three pharmacy chains dominate the market, and they are: Farmacias Ahumada, Cruz Verde, and Salcobrand. Independent pharmacies are few and far between. Here, we will show you several ways to ensure you obtain the medications you need at an affordable price!
Visit a “farmacias populares” (pharmacy for people).
Similar to their namesake, these are pharmacies sponsored by the city or public healthcare system. As a result, you are looking at prices 15-20 times cheaper than what you are able to buy at the pharmacy chains. Drugs at the farmacias populares are sold at what they really cost, plus an amount that only just covers the operational costs.
To find out if the city you reside in has one, type in one of these search terms on Google:
[Name of your city] + farmacia comunitaria
[Name of your city] + farmacia popular
Before heading to your local pharmacy for the people, remember to bring a proof of address to show that you live in the city and are, thus, eligible to shop there.
Negotiate with store clerks
Staff at the pharmacy chain stores are often reluctant to promote low-cost, generic drugs because they earn a bonus for every sale made. The more expensive the drug costs, the higher their bonus. Nevertheless, you can still try to ask for a generic brand of the medication your doctor prescribed you in case they have cheaper options available.
How to find the best private health insurance in Chile
Choosing the right private health insurance plan can be a daunting task as there are numerous options available in Chile. One of the best decisions you can make as an expat is to chat with our insurance experts at Pacific Prime.
We have decades of experience in the industry and are committed to finding the perfect insurance plan to suit your budget and needs. Most importantly, our highly-trained experts at Pacific Prime provide free quotations, leverage our close partnerships with all major insurers, and have an extensive portfolio that consists of all the best plans. Contact us today so we can help!