Brazil has so-called universal healthcare available free to
all citizens. I say so-called because depending on where in the country you
live, the hospital may or may not have running water now and again throughout
the year. Doctors dealing with certain specialties may not be available for
several days after you have been admitted.
One of the public hospitals in our city, for example, has an
MRI machine that has been out of service for more than a year…
On the bright side, if you can hang in there long enough you
will likely get the help you need. And in some parts of the country this
medical attention is excellent in quality.
To skate over the wild card realities that befall the public
system, most people who can afford to buy into a private insurance system do
so. Fancy hospitals, short or nonexistent lines, specialists ready to see you
in short order, etc.
Luiz and I both have private healthcare coverage. It’s not
top of the line, but certainly WAY better than the strict public system.
Recently I was admitted to the hospital to drill down into a
health situation we are still trying to totally understand. Let me highlight
some things I’ve encountered along the way.
Regarding our insurance coverage: First, I cannot be denied
a policy due to a pre-existing condition, and they charge premiums by the age
of the consumer (ill or healthy). There are no co-payments, deductables or
lifetime limits. If a treatment is determined by your doctor to be essential in
your overall treatment plan, the insurance company cannot deny coverage
(although they might make you jump through a few hoops).
I shouldn’t say there are NO co-payments. Some office visits
include a co-payment (R$4). But follow up visits are not charged for. For
example, if your cardiologist sends you out for a series of tests, your next
visit to the cardiologist to review the results and discuss moving forward is a
FREE office visit.
I was admitted into the hospital. Once in the hospital
everything is free of charge (including all meds, which can be expensive when
bought in a pharmacy). I had two ultra sounds, x-rays, a CT scan an MRI and an
endoscopy. Every three days they did a full blood workup. I was on an
anti-biotic drip four times a day, plus several other meds. All no charge.
The facility was very modern (old building, but totally
refurbished on the inside). It had all
the fancy diagnostic machinery, in working order. Doctors of all stripes were
I got excellent (and friendly) care.
Here in Brazil it is not possible legally for medical
providers (or bill collectors) to make you liquidate your family assets (lose
your home) as a result of medical expenses. Oh, and all your insurance
premiums, misc. costs and pharmaceutical expenses are tax deductable.
If I had one complaint it would be the lack of wireless
internet service in my room, but then… STFU Jim.
My premium is R$300 per month and will not jump up to nearly
R$500 until I reach age 60, so I have a while.
Of course – keep in mind this is simply what I experience in
my situation. Results may vary depending on the insurance company you have and
where in the country you live.
We arrived in Brazil in January, 2008 to start up a new chapter in our life together. Luiz has returned to his hometown and I've jumped into the deep end of the pool ready for anything. Let the fun begin!