The World’s Best Health Care Plan

If you fall in love with Uruguay, as I did, one thing you’ll appreciate is the high-quality, affordable health care.

In Uruguay, medical equipment is modern and doctors highly trained. There are two medical schools in Montevideo, but many senior doctors in Uruguay were trained in the United States, Germany, and Brazil. Many Uruguayan doctors also attend continuing-education conferences abroad.

For cost, consider this: I had knee surgery just over a year ago. I paid $200 for a CT scan, a $7 co-pay for each doctor visit, and a $7 co-pay for each physical therapy session afterwards. Everything else was covered by my regular $185-a-month health-care plan.

Uruguay has a public health-care system, and expats who have applied for residence can use the system in an emergency. But my advice is not to rely on it. Instead, the most common medical care choice in Uruguay is a hospital plan called a mutualista.

With a mutualista, you become a member of a hospital and go there for all your scheduled health care needs. You make monthly payments to the mutualista and also pay a small co-pay when you see a doctor or have a medical test.

A mutualista is different from health insurance. There is no deductible, no lifetime cap, and no complicated terms to decipher. Each private hospital sets its own guidelines for accepting non-employed members (such as retiree expats). Some hospitals will not take new members over a certain age or with certain pre-existing conditions.

Most of the staff and many doctors in Uruguayan hospitals speak only Spanish, so consider coming with someone to interpret for you if you don’t speak Spanish.

It’s easy to find good medications, both generics and brand-name drugs. (Do note that brands may not have the same names as in the U.S.) Cost can depend on your hospital plan. Many offer a 50% discount.

If you prefer to buy health insurance instead of joining a mutualista, health plans are available with a variety of coverage options.

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