Are you a foreigner and are you going to travel or move to Brazil? Understand how the public and private health system in Brazil.

The Brazilian health system, also known as SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde) is a public universal health system.

It is financed with resources from tax revenues and contributions made to municipal, state and federal governments.

  The principles of SUS are:

  • The universal right to comprehensive health at the primary, secondary and tertiary (complex) levels;
  • Decentralization – responsibilities are assigned to the three levels of government: federal, state and municipal;
  • Social participation – including monitoring how health policies are being implemented through federal, state and municipal health councils.

Are healthcare systems free in Brazil?


SUS is a free system. Visiting expatriates and residents, including those without proper documentation, can access its services.

SUS care includes all preventive services, immunizations, primary health care, specialized outpatient care, hospital care, maternity, pharmaceuticals, mental health services, physical therapy, dental care, specialty care, among many other services.


Quality of health systems in Brazil


Unfortunately, the infrastructure of healthcare facilities in Brazil is generally below the level expats are used to in their home countries.

In addition, in the large urban centers of the country, during some periods of the year, these places can be overcrowded, resulting in a long waiting time to get care.

health system in BrazilOvercrowding also means that in the vast majority of hospitals there are no private rooms for patient care. That is, those who need hospitalization will probably have to stay in a shared room.

Regarding the standard of care, this can vary greatly from place to place. Especially, because the concentration of medical professionals is higher in the richest cities in the country.

In 2018, Brazilian municipalities with less than 5 thousand inhabitants had an average of 1 doctor for every 3 thousand people. In municipalities with more than 500,000 inhabitants, the average arrival of one professional for every 230 people.

It is worth remembering that the pandemic caused by COVID-19 harmed the Brazilian health system, as it filled intensive care units in 18 states.

But the Brazilian health system also has its positive points. Many medical procedures that are very expensive in other countries are performed completely free of charge. In addition, many of the professionals who work in the public sector also work in the private sector, which means that the quality of professionals is the same.


Health system in Brazil for foreigners


All legal residents in the country, whether Brazilian or foreign, can access health services.

Once registered in Brazil as a resident, the expatriate only needs to issue the SUS card to receive care at the health units.

Currently, the SUS card has changed to the new National Health Card, which includes the personal identification number and allows the patient’s health record in any hospital, whether public or private.

The card is issued free of charge and can be requested online. Or, it can be requested from a health unit, where you will fill out some forms and receive the card.

To qualify for the issuance of a SUS Card, you must present:

  • Brazilian Identity Card, also called RG (General Registry);
  • Proof of address;
  • CPF number (Individual Taxpayer Registration);
  • Marriage or divorce certificate, if applicable.


Do I need health insurance to move to Brazil?


The Brazilian Government does not require foreign travelers to present proof of health insurance to enter the country. However, this is a highly recommended practice.

health system in BrazilThe public health system in Brazil offers a higher waiting time rate than private plans. In addition, the private system offers high-quality care. This justifies the fact that 22% of the country’s population opts for private health plans.

By choosing to pay for a plan, you will be guaranteed access to excellent quality services and will not have to worry about unexpected expenses.

Many employers often offer local private insurance as part of employee compensation programs. If you are an employee, you can also benefit from this.

However, if you do not have this benefit or are self-employed, it is worth investing in hiring private medical coverage.


Benefits of private health plans in Brazil


  • Most of the medical professionals working in Brazilian private systems received training in the US. This indicates that you are unlikely to encounter language barriers;
  • Waiting time is shorter;
  • Greater freedom to choose medical and professional centers;
  • Access to modern infrastructure and equipment;
  • Clear cost forecasts.


How much do private health plans cost in Brazil?


There is no set price for private healthcare systems. The values ​​depend on the provider, the type of plan, level of coverage, region, if you are male or female, age and if the individual has any pre-existing conditions.

Medical provider UNIMED, one of the most popular in the country, quotes £76.92 for full coverage for a family of three. But, as mentioned above, this value can vary greatly depending on the location and other factors.


Health risks in Brazil


Regarding health risks in Brazil, the Ministry of Health provides a series of guidelines on its official website. Log in and read carefully. The instructions include the recommendation for previous vaccinations, in order to guarantee protection against diseases common in the country.


Previous vaccinations to travel to Brazil


Make sure you have your immunization schedule up to date (diphtheria/tetanus/polio/COVID). In addition, other vaccines are also recommended, such as hepatitis A and B, rabies, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever.

And if you are a foreigner and want to know about the scenario for opening new businesses in the country, access the article where we cover the subject.

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