Health Insurance for Expatriates in Brazil
Welcome to our country guide providing economic, healthcare and health insurance information to expatriates living in Brazil. Brazil is the world’s fourth-biggest democracy with a fast-growing economy. Although developing, there are significant challenges for Brazil’s healthcare system, which is ranked 50th in Bloomberg’s Most Efficient Healthcare 2014 report.
Brazil in numbers
Healthcare in Brazil
Brazil’s permanent residents are able to access free public healthcare at any of the government run public hospitals. These tend to be overcrowded and underfunded, whereas the standard of private healthcare accessible for expatriates through private health insurance is generally high, especially in metropolitan areas.
The range of specialists can vary depending on where you are in Brazil. Larger cities have a variety of practitioners to choose from whereas smaller towns usually have less expensive healthcare facilities but with fewer options. The quality of dentistry can also vary quite dramatically across the country, but Rio and Sau Paulo are renowned for excellent dentistry services.
Brazil has a general ambulance service available throughout the country, free to all residents. Most major private hospitals also have their own emergency services, which can be contacted directly.
Private Medical Insurance in Brazil
While everyone in Brazil is guaranteed access to healthcare provided by the national health system, including foreign residents, private care is subsidised by the social security budget and private medical insurance. Private healthcare in the country is considered much higher quality than national healthcare, with shorter waiting times and better facilities available. It is estimated that around 20%-25% of the Brazilian population has private health insurance.
Expatriates moving to Brazil to live or work are advised to take out an international private medical insurance policy to ensure they are able to access the right level of medical care should they become ill or have an accident.
Pharmacies and Medicines in Brazil
Pharmacies are widely available, especially in large cities and towns. Pharmacies are usually open from 8:30am – 7pm, but some in key locations are open later or even 24 hours. Most general and prescription medicines are available through pharmacies and the government invests heavily in the production of generic drugs, which helps push down pricing.
Important health information before you go
Before travelling to Brazil it is important to understand the different types of health risks that expatriates may be exposed to. Every country has its own health issues, endemic diseases and unique problems so pre-travel checks are essential.
Dengue fever remains a risk in Brazil, and is transmitted by mosquitoes. For this reason expatriates should take the necessary precautions to avoid being bitten by insects carrying the disease. Other recommended precautions include:
Eat and drink safely
Eat and drink safely
Avoid non-sterile medical equipment
Take anti-malarial medication
Take precautions to avoid bug bites
Avoid wild animals
Take precautions to avoid bug bites
For up to date information on vaccination requirements and recommendations in Brazil, click here.
If you have recently visited a country known for outbreaks of yellow fever, you will need to show proof of vaccination.
Research the names and locations of the clinics, hospitals and pharmacists near to where you are moving, and check out the Blood Care Foundation before any blood transfusions take place. Expatriates and travellers are strongly advised to ask about the screening procedures taken for blood that is to be passed on to ensure it has complied with international standards.
It’s important to check for restrictions when travelling with prescription medication. Medicines available in your home country may not always be available in your new destination and may even have different names and ingredients. Make sure you understand the local names for the drugs you are using at home. For information about medications around the world click here.
Before leaving home, have a thorough health check-up to detect any potential medical problems. If possible this should be carried out at least two months in advance to allow time for any necessary treatment or pre-planning before departure. Ask your international health insurance broker or provider as your insurance plan may provide access to free health checks.
Taking care of special needs
If you are an expatriate and you or a family member has an existing or special health condition, you will need to determine if and how it can be adequately treated in Brazil. Regulations and care for those with mental or physical disabilities can vary wildly in different countries. Because of this, it’s important to identify potential barriers, and the first point of contact should be your consulate or embassy. For a comprehensive list of consulates and embassies in Brazil click here.
Your international health insurance provider should be able to advise you on your healthcare options in Brazil should you have any special requirements.
Food hygiene and health
Generally speaking, food in Brazil is hygienic and safe, but expatriates should take precautions anyway. Fast food sold by street vendors, especially those on the beaches, should be treated with extreme caution. These outlets can carry significant food health risks. Try to only buy from food stalls that look clean and professionally-run. If possible avoid buying fast food later in the day as it may have been exposed to the elements for some time.
Tap water, while fine for cooking, is questionable for drinking or washing food such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Some areas may have a safe drinking water supply but to be safe it is best to drink bottles of mineral water, which is relatively inexpensive.
Expatriates should know the key emergency contact numbers of any country they visit. The following are the contact numbers for the emergency services in Brazil:
190 – Police
193 – Fire and Ambulance services
Some emergency contact information and services can vary depending on where you are based. This page has key contact information.