Unlike other countries, Brazil has got a public health care system providing services to the entire population. Learn some characteristics of this system, what are the alternatives offered by the private initiative and how foreigners can have access to healthcare in Brazil.
SUS – Sistema Único de Saúde
The Brazilian health care system, named SUS, was established in 1988 in order to guarantee access to health care to the entire population. Previously, access to health care was restricted to those who contributed to the social security. SUS maintains all public hospitals, laboratories, hemocenters and health centers.
In theory, the public health care system works very well, but reality is far from being ideal. Public hospitals haven’t got enough beds and inpatients are found lying on the bare floor of the corridors, medication and the number of doctors are far from being enough.
Many municipalities simply do not offer medical specialties like endocrinologist or cardiologist and a simple appointment with a GP can take more than two months. As hospitals are not available in all municipalities, getting a surgery done can take up to two years.
As there are significant differences among the Brazilian states in terms of health care development, some surgeries can only be done in sophisticated medical centers like Hospital das Clínicas, in São Paulo. Every year thousands of people come from all Brazilian states expecting to be served by Hospital das Clínicas and its institutes, such as the Heart Institute and the Cancer Institute.
On the other hand, any Brazilian citizen can go to a public hospital that he will receive a treatment. When going to the hospital, the patient must provide his RG (Brazilian identification card) along with the SUS card.
Tired of the poor quality of the public health care system, many Brazilians acquire a private health care plan. In theory, they are supposed to be faster than SUS and to provide a much better qualified service for its patients, but the truth is that some private hospitals are in the same poor condition as the public ones.
There are several health care providers operating in Brazil. Here are some of the major ones, listed from most affordable to most expensive:
- São Cristóvão
- Dix Saúde
- Golden Cross
Prices vary according to the plan and to the age. These are the ranges for individual plans, being Itálica the cheapest one and Intermédica the most expensive.
- 0 to 18 years old: from BRL 41,80 to BRL 141, 22
- 19 to 23 years old: from BRL 50,16 to 190,65
- 24 to 28 years old: from BRL 51,02 to BRL 223,00
- 29 to 33 years old: from 58,60 to BRL 234,00
- 44 to 48 years old: from BRL 149,07 to BRL 345,93
- 49 to 53 years old: from BRL 137,12 to BRL 512,01
- 54 to 58 years old: from BRL 147,52 to BRL 655,34
- more than 59 years old: from BRL 250,22 to BRL 846,83
How a foreigner can apply?
Brazil has got a bilateral agreement with Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Cape Verde that guarantees access to medical services for foreigners who pay INSS. Other than that, there is no clear regulation regarding the access to SUS by foreigners living in Brazil. Brazilian citizens are required to present an ID card (RG) and in 49% of the Brazilian municipalities, a proof of residence. If the RNE or the passport will be accepted as an ID card, it depends on the municipality.
To get a private health insurance, a CPF number is required. Foreigners who do not have a CPF number may present the RNE. If you are getting a health insurance for your kids, you will need to issue their CPF as well.
A problem present in both public and private health care providers in Brazil is the lack of staff who speaks English. With the exception of a few sophisticated medical centers, foreigners will hardly find someone who speaks English and in most cases will have to take a Portuguese speaker with him when going to see a doctor.