Enrolling in the Public Healthcare System in Chile

A primer on how to enroll in the public healthcare system in Chile.
Enrolling in the Public Healthcare System in Chile

If you’re planning to enroll in the public healthcare system in Chile, this article covers the requirements for foreigners to be able enroll in the public healthcare system, the steps involved and more.

Chile is known for its robust public healthcare system, known as Fondo Nacional de Salud (FONASA). This system is lauded for its accessibility and affordability, although it is not without its challenges. It is mandatory for all residents, including foreigners with a valid visa, to contribute to the system. The majority of the population, around 80%, uses FONASA, while the rest opt for private insurance, known as ISAPRE.

Quality and Costs of FONASA

The quality of healthcare under FONASA can vary. While it provides a wide range of services, from routine check-ups to complex surgeries, the system is often criticized for its long waiting times. However, the cost of FONASA is relatively low, with contributions calculated as a percentage of income. The minimum contribution is 7% of a person’s monthly income.

Enrollment in FONASA for Foreigners

Foreigners are eligible to enroll in FONASA once they have obtained a valid visa and a Chilean ID card (c├ędula de identidad). It is important to note that tourists are not eligible for FONASA and should ensure they have adequate travel insurance to cover any medical expenses during their stay.

Steps for Enrolling in FONASA

  1. Obtain a valid visa: This is the first step for any foreigner wishing to live and work in Chile. The type of visa required will depend on the individual’s circumstances.
  2. Apply for a Chilean ID card: Once the visa has been granted, the individual can apply for a Chilean ID card. This is a mandatory requirement for enrolling in FONASA.
  3. Visit a FONASA office: With a valid visa and Chilean ID card, the individual can visit a FONASA office to enroll in the system. It is advisable to bring a copy of the employment contract as proof of income.
  4. Choose a healthcare plan: FONASA offers four different plans, A, B, C, and D, based on income. The individual can choose the plan that best suits their needs and financial situation.

Alternative Options

If a foreigner is not satisfied with the quality of healthcare provided by FONASA, they can opt for private insurance, ISAPRE. ISAPRE offers faster access to specialists and private hospitals but at a higher cost. It is also possible to use a combination of FONASA and ISAPRE, using the public system for routine care and the private system for specialist services.

In conclusion, while the process of enrolling in FONASA may seem daunting, it is a straightforward process once the individual has obtained a valid visa and Chilean ID card. The system provides a wide range of services at a low cost, making it an attractive option for many foreigners living in Chile.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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