Although Brazil has an universal health system, there are some appointments and exams that have to be paid for. Know in this article more about the healthcare in Brazil – and its costs.
Brazil's Public Health System
Brazil has a public health system named Unified Health System or Sistema Único de Saúde. Known as SUS, it was created in the 1988 Constitution and designed to supply the demand of the whole country when it comes to appointments and exams. It provides, for free, from basic medical assistance to treatments and surgeries that sometimes are too expensive.
Although SUS was to be one of the best health systems in the world, it is far from being the ideal one. Bureaucracy, long queues until the treatment is given, patients treated in corridors, lack of employees and low-paid doctors are some of the reasons that make SUS much less efficient than it should be.
Every Brazilian has the right to use SUS, and people who use it usually get their SUS card, which contains all the historic of the person in the system, such as hospitals where the person went to, or exams that he/she did. With a SUS card it is also possible to get medication for free.
There are no specific regulations for SUS when it comes to foreigners using the health system. Considering that sometimes the system isn't enough for Brazilians, foreigners can find it really hard to get an appointment with a doctor or to make an exam. Sometimes it takes 3 months to get the appointment. The worst cases can reach over one year of waiting.
Paying for Each Appointment...
The solution is to find and pay for what we call a médico particular, or a private doctor whose cost is not included in health plans or covered by SUS. Usually, physicians who offer their services in this private system charge high prices for each appointment, restricting the number of people who can be consulted, due to the individual conditions of affording an appointment or not.
Not every doctor, however, provide services through health plans; some of them only treat patients in this private system, and then prefer not to charge very high costs for their appointments in order to attend to more people.
These appointments are usually made in the doctor's office, not in hospitals or public health stations.
...And Each Exam
The same thing can happen to medical exams: since there is a considerable number of them that are not covered by health plans, and knowing that only approximately 47 million out of 190 million Brazilians pay for private plans, the cost of the exams is another important expenditure that has to be minded.
Prices of medical appointments and exams don't vary much from region to region, but from doctor to doctor as well as hospital to hospital and medical laboratory to medical laboratory. In the very same city it is possible to get an appointment for a determined specialty of doctor costing BRL 50 and another appointment, for the same specialty, costing BRL 400. It depends on the part of the city where the doctor's office is located and on the reputation and prestige that both of them carry.
It also depends on the level of education of the doctors and their titles: professor, doutor, mestre. The more study the doctors has, it is more likely that the price of their appointments will not be very accessible.
An appointment in any kind of medical specialty – whether it is needed an orthopedist, a neurologist, a cardiologist, a dermatologist, an endocrinologist, a gynecologist or others – can be generally from around BRL 100 to BRL 600 and, eventually, even more than that.
The advice is that foreigners avoid coming to Brazil without having a good medical insurance plan, in order to guarantee the medical assistance in case they need it, and avoid spending too much money in one single appointment.
Here we have a list with some examples of cost of health services in the city of São Paulo:
| Medical Specialty||Cost|
|Dentist (per month, equivalent to two appointments)||BRL 160|
|Gynecologist||BRL 280 – 300|
|Complete Blood Count (CBC)||BRL 9|
|Type 1 Urine||BRL 10|
|Electrolytes||BRL 12 – BRL 18|
| Ultrasonography (from a pelvic ultrasonography to a Doppler obstetric ultrasound)||BRL 56 – BRL 251|
|X-ray (from a simple abdominal x-ray to a skeleton x-ray)||BRL 33 – BRL 416|
|Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring||BRL 100|