Monday, January 14, 2013

A glimpse into a corner of the Brazilian healthcare system

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 on site.

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.


Shelley said...

Thanks for sharing--I didn't know you could deduct the premiums from your taxes. Hope you are better!

The Reader said...

Sorry to hear about the health issues, Jim. I hope they get it sorted soon and you are on the road to recovery ASAP. Hugs, good thoughts, prayers, etc. for you.

Our experience with health care has been very similar. Public health care here varies so greatly, even from one location in a city to another location in the same city. Scary how bad the public system can be, even in the rich areas....