A guide to help you understand the differences between state-funded public healthcare, insurance covered plans and private healthcare systems in Argentina.
Whether you’re planning to come to Argentina to do a medicine placement, learn Spanish, teach English or just come to travel, knowing about the hospitals/healthcare and doctors in the country will be extremely useful.
Argentina provides free healthcare to those who need it. As this constitutes for 50% of the population (and many foreigners who visit the country for free healthcare) the healthcare budget is a very high one. Many come to get treatments and consultations for free and cosmetic surgery even in at a private consultancy at a much cheaper price than they would back home.
Argentina, especially the capital city, Buenos Aires, has modernised greatly over the last decade. Here there are three sectors: The public sector (free, charge made to outpatients when they buy medication), mutuals or social plans “obra social” and private care. Sometimes it can seem a bit more mixed up as the social plans will often include charges for medication.
The public healthcare sector is financed through taxes. The public hospitals are inside the Capital city and around the country in other provinces however it is highly decentralised towards the City of Buenos Aires, and big cities around the country such as Rosario and Córdoba. This is important to know as if you are planning to stay in a smaller village in a northern province, your healthcare options may be fewer.
The public hospitals and clinics such as Hospital de Clínicas, Hospital Garrahan and Hospital Pirovano what they lack in refurbished buildings they make up for in quality of staff. The medics, nurses and general staff have completed years of medical degree, residency and most will have studied abroad. Many doctors will understand English (being their second language). In the public hospitals here treatments are free, but charges for medication are made to outpatients.
As a foreigner, if your insurance does not cover the treatment, you will either have to pay in the moment, or within a month
Payamédicos are a lovely tradition in Hospitals in Argentina where people dressed as clowns (payasos) go in to play with and cheer up the children who are interned in hospital.
Social medical care plans – “Obra Social”
The social plans or “Obra sociales” are administered by trade unions. These can be paid for by an individual looking for a good healthcare plan, or they will be paid for by law by the employer for the employee as long as they are working legally. Employers and employees pay fixed fee but the plans differ depending on the union or the job type. One can opt to pay more and upgrade their coverage to a wider range of treatments. There are over 300 plans in Argentina. These include Argentine plans and more recent plans from companies coming in from countries such as Switzerland.
The social plans usually cover or all or a percentage of medical costs, depending on the treatment. Certain esthetic treatments are not covered but most consultancies healthcare is. Some larger private hospitals often offer their own plans which are more flexible and have discounts, such as the German hospital.
Hospitals such as the German and British hospital accept most plans and looking in a directory for Doctors whose consultancies are covered by your insurance plan the best way to go if you are living in Argentina long term.
In private healthcare the patient covers all of their medical cost. These are usually much more costly, but for many foreigners who are looking to be seen to quickly and efficiently this usually ends up being the best option.
The private healthcare sector caters to only 5% of the population but 70% of health establishments in Argentina (3,494 of 5,012) are part of the private sector.
My recommendation would be to go to the British Hospital (Hospital Británico) or the Italian Hospital (Hospital Italiano) in Buenos Aires and pay that little bit extra to be seen. It is a much quicker and cleaner experience than many completely public hospitals such as Hospital Clínicas. Your travel insurance can usually reimburse the charges when you are back home. If you need and A&E or “guardia” there are many 24 hour A&E that will see you in the day. When taking out appointments be prepared to have a wait for a few weeks.
But ultimately it is really up to you. Do you have an experience here with doctors, hospitals or healthcare in Argentina? Let us know your story.