Before leaving to study abroad in Brazil, it is important for international students to be familiar with the country’s health insurance system, and to be sure of their coverage during their travels. This way, if you are injured or become ill, you will have a little bit of security. Injury or illness in a foreign country far from home is a difficult enough situation; you don’t need the added stress of colossal medical expenses.
Since 1988, everyone in Brazil, including legal foreign residents such as international students, has guaranteed access to medical care. These services are provided by the public national health system, private providers subsidized by the federal government via the Social Security budget, and from the private sector via private insurance or employers.
Those who utilize the government’s free public health system pay nothing for doctors’ fees, lab fees, hospitalization, surgery, or prescription drugs. However, because wait times are long and better care is available in the private system, more affluent Brazilians generally use the private system, which covers about 20% of the Brazilian population. Though they are covered by the Unified Health System (Sistema Único de Saúde /SUS), most foreign residents in Brazil choose private health insurance.
Several hundred insurance firms in Brazil offer four principal types of medical plans: private health insurance,
prepaid group practice, medical cooperatives, and company health plans. Costs of private insurance in Brazil
vary according to the provider, coverage, and region. They also have varying terms and conditions. Some private
health insurance policies require the policy holder to pay the hospital bill up front and then obtain
reimbursement from the insurance company, while other insurance companies will pay the bill immediately. You
should examine a policy carefully before purchasing it; many will not cover pre-existing conditions or chronic
You might also choose to use coverage from back home during your stay in Brazil. Depending on where you are from, you might find that your current health insurance provider has participating doctors and hospitals in Brazil, and extends coverage to you during your travels.
And no matter what, the free Brazilian national health care is always available to you if you cannot afford private health insurance. It is even available if you do have private health insurance.
In order to obtain health insurance in Brazil, the following documents are necessary:
The Brazilian Ministry of Social Welfare (Ministério da Previdência Social) is responsible for executing government policy on social welfare and organizing payment of social security benefits. Foreigners in Brazil may qualify for certain benefits. In order to qualify, applicants must have a valid work permit and have made a certain number of contributions as required by the Ministry. These benefits include: