Brazil’s international healthcare system – as good as its football?

With all eyes on Brazil and the FIFA World Cup scheduled to kick off in a matter of days, tens of millions of spectators around the world will get a glimpse of life in this fabled country, famous for its football, samba, carnivals and of course as one of the BRIC countries. Brazil, or to give it its correct name, the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and the Latin American region.

It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population, with just under 200 million inhabitants. As one of the BRIC countries, it is a focus for economic growth and magnet for expatriates of all nationalities seeking work. But whilst the world’s footballing elite will be staying just about one month, assuming their players are good enough to progress through the early tournament stages, for expatriate workers, once the fun of the football has died away, there will still be the pressing issues of day to day living to take care of.

Looking after your health will come high on that list, with Hepatitis A, B, Malaria and Dengue fever all relatively common, especially in the more rural areas. An outbreak of Dengue fever in 2002 affected 800,000 in the Rio area, so it is worth planning ahead and ensuring you have suitable international health insurance cover if you are visiting Brazil, as private healthcare there, although generally of a good quality, can be expensive to access. As a rapidly developing country, Brazil has invested in health care and since 1988; the Brazilian constitution has guaranteed that everyone has access to basic medical care in Brazil. This service can be obtained from the public national health system, from private providers subsidised by the federal government via the Social Security budget, or from the private sector via private insurance or employers.

Medical care is available to anyone who is legally living in Brazil, which, of course, includes foreign residents. For the highest quality of health care in Brazil, the private system is generally better than the public system, with shorter waits and better care. The more affluent Brazilians generally use this system, which covers about 20% of the Brazilian population. Debbie Purser, CEO of April International UK points out that “Expatriates of any nationality holding a private international healthcare policy who may be thinking of travelling to see the football should find they are covered for international healthcare costs in Brazil whilst on holiday there. Whereas short term travel insurance policies can be limiting in terms of the cover they offer, a good quality international health insurance plan will offer a very broad range of support for those in Brazil temporarily, matching the care quality levels even a footballer might expect.”