Brazil is always in the news. After all, the country has the world's largest rainforest and one of the mightiest rivers. Apart from its natural beauty, Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking nation, is well known for its relaxed way of life and teeming nightlife. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and expatriates have no trouble settling in.
An ethnically diverse nation with European and native ancestry has proven to be a melting pot for ideas and culture.
However, like most developing nations, Brazil has a weak public healthcare system. You can't settle there unless you take advantage of Brazil expatriate medical insurance to protect you.
Brazil Public Healthcare System
For over three decades, the Brazilian constitution has guaranteed universal healthcare. Its backbone is the public healthcare network known as Sistema Único de Saúde, or SUS. All citizens, including foreigners with a work visa, are able to use free healthcare in government hospitals with a SUS card(Cartão SUS).
The mainstay of the system is the Family Health Team, made up of one doctor, one nurse, and four to six assistants. Each FHT is responsible for about 4,000 residents.
On paper, there are about 6,500 health centers spread across the country. But most have at most twenty-five beds and are closer to recuperation homes than full-fledged medical facilities.
There are six large public hospitals, mostly located around Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. At these facilities, treatment, beds, and medication are free of charge.
Large parts of the country are devoid of any access to medical care due to harsh terrain and dense forests.
What Ails SUS - Brazilian Healthcare System
The reason is not hard to find. Brazil’s economy is still developing, and it remains challenging to fund universal healthcare out of its budget. This is a problem seen around the world, though, and not restricted to Brazil alone.
There are roughly 3.6 healthcare facilities per 10,000 citizens, but many of them are not adequately staffed. There is an acute shortage of doctors, and for much of the last several decades, Brazil has allowed Cuban doctors to work in the country. That has now changed, and the frosty relationship between Brazil and post-Castro Cuba has seen Cuban health professionals depart.
The public hospitals are overcrowded, grimy, and lack basic facilities such as air conditioning, which is usually accepted as a given in the developed world. In situations other than a dire emergency, an expat would usually not consider seeking medical treatment at these facilities.
Brazil's Private Healthcare System
There is no need to worry about the lack of public healthcare in Brazil. The eastern part of the country is more densely populated and has private medical hospitals in every urban center.
Like in other developing countries, these are manned by trained personnel, are clean and hygienic, and have the latest medical equipment. The doctors are well trained and deliver high-quality healthcare benchmarked to international standards.
Brazilian private health insurance covers a vast number of people, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million at last count. Like in the West, it is not cheap, but the middle class and affluent take full advantage of it.
Parallel healthcare systems are not uncommon in poorer nations. Brazil, like India, is unable to provide adequate public healthcare, but it can offer top-of-the-line private services—if you can afford it.
Brazil Expat Health Insurance
By now, the reader understands that it is not feasible to relocate to Brazil without expat health insurance. While buying private health insurance, you must keep in mind that you will need certain benefits from the insurer. What are these?
- Geographical Coverage – The policy you buy must cover you in several countries, assuming you would travel for work or leisure. It is quite impossible to purchase new travel insurance every time. It is expensive and difficult to keep track of policies and papers. A policy that’s applicable worldwide is not only essential but also convenient. The plan can include or exclude the U.S., depending on your financial ability and need.
- Level of Coverage – Everyone does not need insurance for all types of medical care. If you are under 50 years old, you most probably do not need cataract surgery. If you follow a strict oral care regime, you can do away with an expensive dental care add-on. Identify your needs based on a self-evaluation of your health, and buy accordingly. You would be able to save quite a few pennies this way.
- Co-pay – Private insurance providers want their customers to share a part of the burden. It is entirely justified. They do not want you to admit yourself to the hospital at the drop of a hat. The share is between 10% and 30% and makes you think twice before you seek expensive treatment for something small, such as a bout of the flu that can be taken care of with rest and fluids at home. But do watch out for policies that charge less co-pay than others. Should you need admission to a hospital, they would be cheaper.
- Medical Evacuation – It is quite natural that you might seek medical evacuation to another country for better treatment. Medical evacuation is expensive, and it is best to include it as part of the policy. The same clause should also include repatriation to your home country. This allows you considerable flexibility in treatment options and offers you more choices.
Cover Your Healthcare Needs with Brazil Expat Health Insurance
Buy the best available private expatriate health insurance. Compare several policies side-by-side, and select the one that is perfect for you. Choose only the add-ons that you require, and protect your health no matter where you are in the world.