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Health Insurance for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: May 2014

Healthcare in the public system is surely free for all in Brazil. However, many expats would rather rely on private sector healthcare, just like the Brazilian upper middle class does. Going private is generally justified by a need to make sure you get service quality, experienced doctors, and modern equipment.

As a result of the above, health insurance (seguro saúde) may be needed by expats in Brazil. Of course, health insurance may be part of a compensation package offered by Brazilian employers.

Some Brazilian insurers may both offer insurance and provide healthcare. Such schemes may be considered if you think you can get better value for money. In any event, however, it is advisable to get your insurance arrangements in order prior to entering Brazil.

Immigration rules

Brazilian immigration rules would likely require you to have health insurance before you can be issued a visa. You can’t just come and rely solely on free public healthcare services.

Affordability

Brazil is no longer as cheap as it used to be. For a healthy, young expat, premiums can be expected to be $1,500 to $2,000 per year.

Chronic/pre-existing conditions

If you have any chronic or pre-existing conditions, you will likely have to pay higher premiums. In such cases, you might wish to check if you can be covered by a social insurance scheme in your home country.

Likewise, you might need to be insured against the risk of contracting a long-term disease in Brazil. Such risks can be insured by a private insurer, by a social security scheme, either Brazil’s or that of your home country.

Health insurance card

Once you are insured by a Brazilian insurer, you should be issued a health insurance card. This card is just like what you would get from social insurance schemes in many countries, except that it’s issued from a private insurer here.

Do carry your health insurance card with you at all times.

Private sector billing system

For outpatient services (e.g. family doctor consultations), you would generally have to pay upfront and be then be reimbursed by your insurer. Feel free to check if your claim is in fact processed automatically.

Regarding hospitals, a Brazilian hospital would likely be happy to collect your insurance details and bill your insurer directly. If you are uninsured, a deposit will typically be required.

The extent to which an overseas insurance policy may be accepted is on a case-by-case basis. Typically, this will depend on how your insurer’s brand is known in Brazil.

Health insurance/life insurance

In Brazil, insurers tend to sell health insurance products within a wider life insurance policy (seguro vida). Consequently, it’s best to check what exactly you are covered for. If you don’t need health insurance, be upfront and ask to opt out from the life insurance part.

International cover

You should check the geographical coverage of your existing insurance policy, if you have any.

If you have a foreign policy but you haven’t been sold it as an international insurance cover specifically designed for expats, your policy is unlikely to work in Brazil. In that case, you should let your insurer know that you are moving to Brazil, and switch to an international cover. Your insurer is likely to charge you extra for this, but do bear in mind that the very fact of being insured in several countries carries an extra burden as well.

If you need to have Brazil covered by an international health insurance policy, premiums will typically be no lower than $1,000 per year.

A good international cover would insure you against:

  • medical costs in Brazil
  • medical costs in your home country (or another relevant foreign country), and
  • medical evacuation costs (without adequate insurance, these can be well above  $10,000).

If you are coming to Brazil only for a temporary visit, you probably don’t need international health insurance if you have appropriate travel insurance.

 

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