Uruguay is a tiny nation to the south of Brazil that was once known for being a football superpower (association football or soccer, not American football). Now it is better known as a top wine producer from South America. Though Uruguay is the smallest nation in Latin America, it is one of the wealthiest nations with a GDP per capita of $17,200 and is also the least corrupt nation. The capital Montevideo reflects its colonial past and has gracious villas, Victorian-era buildings, and fantastic beaches along the coast. Another popular attraction is Tango dancing, a passion Uruguayans share with Argentina.
With so much to offer from vibrant culture to succulent cuisine, it is no surprise that many expats choose to settle here. Before you pack your bags and fly off, you have to know more about the healthcare system in Uruguay. As a foreigner in a strange land, you need to be assured that you’re protected by the best international private health coverage for expatriates in Uruguay.
Uruguayan Public Healthcare System – Affordable Healthcare for Every Citizen
The public healthcare system in Uruguay is known as Administración de Los Servicios de Salud del Estado (ASSE) or Administration of State Health Services. The system runs based on small monthly contributions and is a version of state-run health insurance. The system is accessible to all citizens of Uruguay and long-term residents. Those with low income can receive medical care free.
There are hospitals and medical clinics run by ASSE throughout Uruguay. The hospitals are generally clean and well maintained. Although being heavily subsidized, these facilities do not always have the latest equipment. While medical treatment is dependable at these places, it’s not the first choice for expatriates.
Flaws of Uruguay’s Public Healthcare System
The underlying problem with Uruguay’s public healthcare system is resources. Though the 2014 Global Retirement Index ranked Uruguay as one of the three most affordable healthcare service providers, on the ground, there is still much to be desired.
The standard care is high at the University Hospital in Montevideo, the capital city. It is the showpiece of the entire ASSE system. But if you move out of Montevideo into rural Uruguay, there is a complete lack of competent healthcare at ASSE clinics.
Uruguayan Private Healthcare – A Well Established Sector
These are the three types of private healthcare providers available in Uruguay:
- Mutualistas – These are similar to HMOs in the USA. You sign up and make a monthly contribution. In return, you have access to mutualista owned or affiliated healthcare providers, doctors, and hospitals. Primary care is free, but anything more requires further out of pocket payment, usually at a reduced rate.
- Hospital Plans – The British Hospital in Montevideo is a prime example. For a regular fee, you have access to its discounted services as a premium client. The chief drawback - you only have access to a single hospital.
- Private Insurers – Most expats choose this option. When you sign up for a global health insurance policy, the private insurer can settle the bill with the private hospital where you are treated. This is the most convenient choice since it allows you to seek out the best doctors for your particular ailment and not be tied to one hospital or group of hospitals in Uruguay or other countries.
Uruguayan Expat Health Insurance – Best Choice for Expats
Why do you need expat health insurance for Uruguay? While you are in a foreign country, falling ill or suffering an injury is going to be stressful in ways you may not have considered. Without familiar faces or even languages around you, dealing with an illness or accident seems unsettling when you consider the worst that could happen.
That is why we have prepared a brief primer about the factors you must consider while choosing a Uruguay expat medical insurance.
- Cashless Benefits – There are two possible ways to claim. The first is traditional – pay upfront and file a claim to get reimbursed later. The second is a cashless claim through which the hospital directly bills the insurer. The latter is by far the better experience for you. You have no need to keep a large amount of idle cash in your checking account to pay for unexpected treatment.
- Geographical Area – Choose a policy that is available in a number of countries. You would, of course, be traveling for work or pleasure. Often you would return to your country of origin. Instead of juggling several insurance policies, it is better to have one that covers you worldwide. There are basically two types – worldwide including the USA and worldwide excluding the USA. The latter is, of course, cheaper, and you would have to choose depending on your travel habits.
- Co-Payment – This clause allows the insurer to ask the patient to bear a portion of the expense. Depending on the policy, you could need to pay as much as 50% of the costs, usually up to a certain amount. The purpose being it prevents unnecessary hospitalization, it reduces the cost for insurance companies so they can keep the premiums reasonably priced. Always try to find a policy that has a copay lower than 50%, if not 0%; you may pay more in premium, but if you need to use the coverage, you’ll be glad you did.
- Critical Care – Critical care can be composed of multiple benefits in a given insurance policy, some examples of these benefits are hospital emergency room, intensive care unit, and surgery. These critical care coverages are for a serious illness or injury, which means serious expenses. Policies including coverage for critical care can result in higher premiums for the special care that is necessary to help you. Even if you are a young, non-smoker in good health and do not fall into any high-risk group, you could still experience something unexpected. You should be sure that the plans you’re considering include this cover.
- Deductibles – Insurance policies offer a wide range of deductible choices when you are purchasing coverage. For a given plan, the lower the deductible, the higher the premium; for a higher deductible, the premium will be lower. Keep in mind that you may have to pay the full deductible amount before the insurance company covers anything.
- Evacuation – If the available facilities in Uruguay are unable to provide adequate care, you might need to travel for treatment in Brazil, Mexico, or even the U.S. For this, you would need an air ambulance, and the evacuation clause is the benefit that pays. Repatriation is similar to evacuation but this clause returns the patient to their country of origin. As an expat, this is a must-have clause.
Be Safe and Sound with Expat Health Insurance
Most laymen find the fine print hard to understand. But with a little research, you can purchase a far superior health plan through a comparison of various policies on offer. Hopefully, this short guide assists you in buying a better expat health insurance product. If you need any assistance, contact our customer service representatives for help.
Once you have your policy in hand, get set to enjoy a new life in Uruguay, sipping on native sparkling rose wine and relaxing on golden beaches at Punta Ballena.