Healthcare system in Chile

Medical facilities in Chile are some of the best in South America, especially in Santiago, where healthcare standards are very high. Data collected by the World Health Organization ranked Chile’s health system 33rd out of 190 countries. This is similar in ranking and expenditure to Australia and Denmark. Many doctors have been educated abroad and speak English.

Whilst working in Chile with a local contract, you will need a health care plan, be it public or private. Around 7% of your income each month (or of your pension if you are retired) will be assigned to a health care plan.

Firstly, if you are looking to obtain medical insurance in Chile you will need a Chilean id number (the RUT / RUN, see our dedicated article). You cannot enroll in either the public or private healthcare systems without one. Of course, you can still have access to emergency services as a tourist. You will pay for the services, and get your money back if you have a travel insurance. If you arrived recently in Chile, and find a job before receiving your RUT, you can still register with an ISAPRE. They will issue you a temporary number so you can start your plan.

You will need to decide on public vs. private health system. Both systems have emergency facilities, and these will attend to your needs in urgent situations. A form (pagare) is sometimes required on arrival guaranteeing payment of fees when billed, and health insurance details will be requested.

One important distinction to note in Chile:

  • A ‘Hospital’ is publically funded.
  • A ‘Clinica’ is a private medical institution, often with better quality services.

Public services: the FONASA system

The National Health Fund, or the public health system, is known as FONASA. Members of this system have access to a network of hospitals, as well as some clinics and medical centers. Only people who are registered in the system can be beneficiaries, and their legal dependents must be listed on their profile.

Chilean nationals and residents have access to this public healthcare through this governmentally run scheme. Nevertheless, despite the high quality of care, state hospitals can be crowded and with long waiting times. Therefore many residents opt for a private cover using private health insurers instead.

What is the amount I will have to pay if I register with FONASA?

If you choose the public system (FONASA), you will have to pay each month 7% of your taxable income with a cap of 4,921 UF (that’s around $150,000, more info on the UF indicator here).

Private healthcare : meet the ISAPREs

Expats who do not have residency or who are not paying taxes, do not have access to public health care system (FONASA). Yet, even those expats with access to the public system, often opt for private care in order to have access to a better standard of care and greater access to healthcare and services. In addition, it is more likely to find English speaking doctors within a private clinic.

The private system is composed of health insurance companies, which are referred to as ISAPREs, which is the acronym for “Instituciones de Salud Previsional”. In general, those who earn more money tend to enroll with ISAPREs.

There are 13 ISAPRES on the market. Some are “closed”, meaning you cannot register with them, because they only work with some companies. For example, some ISAPRE are dedicated to mining companies.

The ISAPRE you can subscribe to are:

  • Banmédica
  • Colmena Golden Cross
  • Más Vida
  • Vida Tres
  • Cruz Blanca
  • Consalud
  • Ferrosalud

These ISAPRE gives you access to private health institutions in Chile (“Clinicas”). Each ISAPRE offers various plans. You can decide which level coverage you need, based on the plan you choose.

We strongly advise you not to rely on your friend’s advice to choose an ISAPRE. Based on your situation (single, couple willing or not to have children, family with kids) and on the level of coverage you require, the best ISAPRE for you can be very different from your friend’s one.

Is there an Isapres ranking in Chile?

The Isapres in Chile  are constantly under supervision and regulated by a government  agency called “SuperIntendencia de Salud”. The agency keeps a list of fines and unwarranted  claims. Yet, there is no oficial ranking of ISAPRE in Chile, due to the fact that ranking would differ based on the situation of each person.

What is CAEC (Cobertura Adicional para Enfermedades Catastróficas)?

The CAEC is an extra insurance, which you can choose when you register with an ISAPRE. Its goal is to provide you extra cover you in case of high cost operation or disease. CAEC enables you to finance 100% of hospitalization provided they are carried out within Chile. This insurance has a deductible, meaning you will be not fully reimbursed, but considering the high cost it covers, it can be worth it.

To qualify for this insurance, check to see if you are in one of the health institutions that has CAEC as part of your contract.