Brazil Offers Free Public Healthcare Services

Since 1988, the Brazilian constitution has guaranteed that everyone have access to healthcare in Brazil. This service can be obtained from the public national health system, from private providers subsidized by the federal government via the Social Security budget, or from the private sector via private insurance or employers.

Healthcare is available to anyone who is legally in Brazil, which, of course, includes foreign residents.

Those who cannot afford to pay for healthcare in Brazil use the government’s free public national health system, mentioned above. They pay nothing for doctors’ fees, lab fees, hospitalization, surgery, or even prescription drugs. Brazil’s national health care system is roughly equal to the caliber and operational style of the Veterans Administration hospital system in the U.S. Municipal hospitals are widely available, and provide free treatment including emergency services to everyone.

For the highest quality of health care in Brazil, the private system is generally better than the public system, with shorter waits and better care. The more affluent Brazilians generally use this system, which covers about 20% of the Brazilian population. There are several hundred firms offering four principal types of medical plans: private health insurance, prepaid group practice, medical cooperatives, and company health plans.

The cost can vary, according to the provider, coverage, and region. We spoke with one expat (over 50 years old) whose plan came with a free complete physical, medicine, hospitalization with a private room, dentistry, and eye care. His cost was $124 per month (R268 reais); a premium that goes down if he makes no claims. The medical provider UniMed quotes $277 (R600) for full coverage for a family of three.

Public healthcare in Brazil is still available should you need to use it, even if you have private health insurance.

Another option in Brazil is to use coverage from back home. Depending on where you live, you may find that your current health insurance provider has participating doctors and hospitals in Brazil.

And don’t forget: You can always fall back on the safety net of completely free Brazilian national healthcare if you cannot afford private medical care.

Regardless of the option you choose, Brazil’s healthcare is sure to be one of the country’s strong points when considering it as an overseas retirement destination.

*Prices as of 2013

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