Health care in Chile is provided by the government and private insurers. In general, both sectors provide affordable, quality services. As you would expect in most countries, public hospitals in Chile tend to have longer wait times and for this reason many expats opt to go with private health care.
The World Health Organization ranks Chile as the 33rd best health care system in the world, ahead of Costa Rica (36), Mexico (61), and even the United States (37). The country offers the second best medical care in all of South America, behind Colombia.
If you do find yourself in need of medical services keep in mind that patients do not need a referral to see a specialist. Expats may find that the concept of a local family doctor in Chile is not that common, as most doctors specialize in a particular aspect of medicine rather than having a general practice. Many doctors train overseas, in countries like the U.S., Canada, and other First-World nations, and offer consultations in English. Finding an English-speaking physician is much easier in the larger cities of Chile than in the rural towns and villages.
Public Health Care in Chile
The Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA) is the government organized health care system that is available to residents of Chile. In order to take advantage of public healthcare you will need to be a resident and be paying taxes in Chile. The quality of care, even in public hospitals, is high quality, although its often reported that there can be long waits and crowding.
Private Health Care in Chile
There are variety of private institutions that provide top-notch health care in Chile. As part, expats and residents join in private Chilean health insurance programs through Instituciones de Salud Previsional (ISAPRE) or private health insurance companies. This can be your best option if you don’t meet the requirements for the public (FONASA) coverage.
Just like in the public sector, doctors for private hospitals provide an excellent level of care. These doctors will generally have a higher level of English and are more familiar with having foreign patients.
Pharmacies in Chile
Pharmacies are abundant in Chile and are conveniently located in nearly ever town and city. Many locations have 24-hour service for prescription pickup and drop-off. Like doctors in Chile, Pharmacists are well-trained and provide a breadth of information on many ailments and illnesses. As prescription drug abuse isn’t a widespread problem many drugs are available over the counter without the need for a doctor’s visit or prescription.
Health Insurance in Chile
Under the Chilean government, through the FONASA program, you can have access to the public health insurance system in Chile. This insurance allows most of the population to be covered and receive free public health care. If you are in need of care within the private medical facilities of Chile this program can also provide subsidization on many of the costs.
How Does the FONASA Work?
FONASA, the government run Fondo Nacional de Salud, is a program funded by public taxes to provide health care in Chile. Chilean citizens and foreign residents who pay taxes will receive a 7% monthly income deduction for the program. Public hospitals run by the government are required to provide free, quality health care to all the public, including those without health care coverage.
Emergency Medical Care in Chile
If you are in need urgent medical care there are many worse places to be than in Chile. A large majority of hospitals have full emergency services, complete with ambulances and ER units. In more remote areas of the country you will find that some of these services aren’t available 24 hours a day, however if the emergency is severe enough there are medical air evacuations available. Air evacuations are quite expensive, however many expats opt for international health insurance plans that cover this option.
The emergency dialing code for Chile is 131.