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Healthcare in Santiago

Moving to Santiago can be a big step, partly due to how far away it is from much of the world. But small things like distance should not stop you from making the exciting move! Find out about many of the practicalities of relocating to the Chilean capital in our guide.
The customary smog over Santiago can pose a health risk to some.

Santiago has an excellent medical system which ranks among the best in Latin America. Government expenditure on healthcare is growing at a faster rate in Chile than in most other OECD countries, which demonstrates that it is a government priority.

Pre-Travel Precautions

Before you move to Santiago, it is a good idea to ensure that your general vaccinations are up to date. It is also wise to get shots for typhoid, polio, hepatitis A, and tetanus. Although you may see a lot of stray dogs while you are in Santiago, rabies is almost nonexistent, so there is no need to worry.

Need a Doctor? Go Straight to the Specialist

It pays to take some general precautions while you are living in Santiago. Although drinking water is safe in Chile, it is recommended that you only drink bottled for the first few weeks of your stay, particularly if you have a sensitive stomach. Also, beware of raw vegetables and fish, and any food sold in the street. Always wash and peel fruit and vegetables carefully at home.

If you have asthma, you might experience some difficulties with the thick smog across the city. Make sure to carry your inhaler with you, and if you think it will be a problem, consider visiting a doctor to get a prescription in Spanish.

When Chileans need a doctor, they go straight to a specialist, as general practitioners (GPs) don’t exist in the country. Follow their lead, and ask your contacts in Santiago to recommend a good doctor. The majority of doctors speak English and are able to provide you with the same prescriptions you would normally find back home.

Healthcare: Public, Private, or International?

The public healthcare system in Chile is known by the term FONASA, which is the Spanish acronym for the “National Health Fund.” The private system involves many different profit- or non-profit-making private health insurance companies, known collectively as ISAPREs.

While you are working in Santiago, you will have to enroll in either a public or a private plan. This is the same for all formal workers, self-employed workers with a retirement fund, and all retirees who have pension plans. For healthcare, 10% of your income or pension plan must be paid to the healthcare plan per month, up to a monthly income limit of 2,000 USD.

Typically, those with higher incomes tend to enroll with ISAPREs, and residents on a lower income opt for FONASA, though this is not always the case. If you are not staying in Santiago for a long period of time, it is worth checking to see whether international health insurance will cover you during your stay in the city.

Both FONASA and ISAPREs must offer the same basic primary care, according to the Explicit Health Guarantee (GES) laws. However, beyond this usual beneficiary package, ISAPREs are free to offer more elaborate packages.


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