Now that you have decided to move to Buenos Aires, one of the first things you should consider is "what kind of health care plans are available for expats in Buenos Aires?". There's good news. There are numerous health care plans available for expats in Buenos Aires. And there is bad news. The cost of these expat health care plans is escalating.
That being said, you definitely still want to make sure that you sign up for one of the private health insurance plans. There are many cities in the world with great public health care systems, but Buenos Aires is not one of them. The last place you want to be taken when you're sick--let alone sick and bleeding-- is a public hospital in Buenos Aires. They have a well-deserved reputation for being dirty and poorly staffed. Here's an example-- 2 years ago, they ran out basic supplies of gauze and bandages. People routinely bring their own supplies and parts for their operations. One person I know actually bought her own parts for her hip replacement.
Recently, the local television news reported on several incidents where, because no security staff was present, people actually went into a public hospital and assaulted a person and doctors to exact revenge for some kind of personal dispute. In response, in April 2011, doctors went on a 48-hour strike to protest the lack of security in public hospitals.
So, first things first, get yourself a private plan.
Starting with the most expensive and working our way downward, here is the list of plan providers and, where available, their websites and phone numbers. We've also indicated the current annual premiums when we could find them. I've lived in Buenos Aires for 4 years and so I think I have a pretty good idea of the advantages and disadvantages of dealing with the various providers, based on my own experiences and those of my expat and Argentine friends.
1. Medicus. This is the plan for the upper crust in Buenos Aires. Tellingly, you'll find Medicus offices located in the most expensive neighborhoods in Buenos Aires --the tony Recoleta section which resembles Paris more than South America--and the favorite vacation spots of the wealthy, Bariloche and Punta Del Este, the Hamptoms of South America located just across the River Plata in Uruguay.
Medicus offers different plans. A standard plan covering your hospitalization, dental and regular doctor's visits costs between 517 and 618 pesos per person per month. That's about $129 and $ 154 per person at the current 4 to 1 exchange rate between pesos and the US dollar.
Not bad for a per month price. But it has literally doubled since I bought the plan 3 years ago. Once you get to Buenos Aires, you'll find that costs tend to leap up rather than creep up as they do in America, Canada and Europe. Letters announcing a 20 to 30% increase every 6 months are common. In fact, the last letter I received in my statement of November 2010, dated November 29, 2011 announced "un aumento del 32%". Cheers.
Many expats worry whether they will need a physical to qualify for health care plans abroad. Not with Medicus, though you will need to complete a questionaire.
Medicus offices in Buenos Aires are at the corner of Avenida Alvear and Callao and in the Retiro neighborhood at the corner of Esmeralda and Arroyo.
Their website is at www.medicus.com.ar
2. Osde. The Osde medial plan has been around for many decades and is also favored by the affluent and the local working affluent classes. While the Medicus offices will make you feel as though you've entered a world-class hotel lobby, the Osde office resemble the office of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Still, posh or not, Osde's health care plan is reasonably priced and has a loyal following.
Their prices are a little less for every type of plan than those of Medicus.
Not sure whether they require a physical (check back here for updates on this matter).
Osde's website is www.osde.com.ar
3. Italian Hospital Plan. This plan does require a medical screening. As for the plan itself, it is similar to Osde in cost. Most of the care is provided at the Italian Hospital. I don't care much for the neighborhood where the hospital is located but the hospital itself is well-known and respected in Buenos Aires.
5. Other places to check. Buenos Aires has several hospitals founded by various European communities. There is the Italian Hospital, the German Hospital (this one is excellent, large and well-staffed) and the British Hospital.
These hospitals may or may not accept your private plan so it's best to check once you land to see which hospital your plan is affiliated with. For example, Medicus members are allowed to use a private, posh hospital called Otamendi, which resembles a 5-start hotel more than a hospital. But, I understand from my friends who have Osde, that they too can be treated at Otamendi.
Since this article was written in 2011, Argentina has experienced one of their classic inflation spirals. Costs for insurance have risen four-fold in some cases.]
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