Argentina is one of the few countries in the world where healthcare remains free for everyone―regardless of nationality, as it is dispensed in all its public hospitals. However, given the quality disparity of the health system from one region to another, private healthcare offers have increased, being covered by local health insurance plans or international health insurance taken out by expatriates.
Health insurance for expats in Argentina
The health insurance system in Argentina
Since healthcare in Argentina is free of charge, regardless of nationality, it attracts many residents of neighbouring countries! Indeed, they can be covered under the principle of compulsory free care for any patient showing up at a public hospital, even if they are neither Argentine citizens nor residents of the country.
However, a large number of Argentines and residents in Argentina are covered by another health insurance system: the obras sociales. This plan is provided and financed by employers' contributions and guarantees employees a compulsory basket of care that covers the main primary care services, provided in dedicated hospital establishments and available to the insured.
However, the effectiveness and success of this dual principle of coverage has a downside: the rapid saturation of the health system. This results in very long delays in obtaining a medical appointment, long queues in the emergency room and in the demanda espontanea or walk-in clinics. In addition, the resources of public hospitals and health centres are often limited in terms of equipment.
> Good to know: Despite the principle of a free health system and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Argentina requires non-residents to take out complementary international health insurance covering COVID-19-related care.
How to choose health insurance in Argentina: local or international?
The Argentine health insurance system is also based on a third pillar: the prepagas, local mutual health insurance plans taken out individually by citizens or residents (or sometimes by their employers). As an alternative or complement to the coverage provided by the social security system, they allow their policyholders to benefit from care provided by networks of mutual or private establishments, without upfront payment, in exchange for a fixed monthly fee.
These mutual insurance companies therefore limit their offer of care to a list of partner health centres and hospitals, which can be restrictive when travelling in the country or in case of specific needs. Moreover, the reimbursement of medicines is often very partial and some treatments are subject to a deductible (copago).
To avoid the very long delays of the public health system, to benefit from a more extensive cover, or to have the freedom to consult the private hospital of your choice, it may be useful to take out complementary international health insurance.