Most hospitals have highly-trained personnel, many of whom have studied abroad. In some parts of the country, the hospitals may not have the most up-to-date equipment, but what is available is adequate for emergency situations. However, modernisation is taking place and this is reflected in the fact that Argentina is now a popular destination for 'medical tourists' who travel for plastic cosmetic surgery and other esthetic proceedures.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to your country of origin can cost thousands of dollars. Private physicians, clinics and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. A visit to a doctor costs anything from US$ 17 up to US$50 (for a specialist).
In Argentina the health care system is organized around three main providers:
- The public sector – which supplies free clinical care for hospital inpatients and outpatients. A charge is made to outpatients for medicines. This sector covers about 50% of the population.
- Mutuals or social plans (around 300 in number) – administered by trade unions. Employers and employees each pay a fixed fee. The ‘mutual’ covers the cost of medical care and medicines in varying proportions; differences between the fixed fee and the actual cost of treatment is paid by the patient. In the past, these plans have usually covered around 45% of the population, although the percentage has fallen recently due to increasing unemployment – with more people resorting to provision within the public sector provision.
- The private sector – where patients meet the total cost of their medical care; this sector covers around 5% of the population.
Access to healthcare
The Argentinean government strives to offer medical access to all its inhabitants. However, access for people in cities as Buenos Aires is more readily available than, for example, in the Andean North west. As a foreigner you should also take this into consideration. The smaller the cities or more remote the area, the harder it will become. Argentina has public and private hospitals. As a foreigner you can of course make use of both. Private hospitals are generally very well equipped. The public hospitals are more basic, but staff are well trained. If your insurance does not cover treatment you will either have to pay before leaving the hospital or within a month. Several of the larger private hospitals and health care groups, such as the British Hospital, offer their own health plan in which you can enrol. These health programs often offer more flexible payments, discounts and easier access to medical services.
Foreign nationals with health problems seeking medical treatment in Argentina can apply for a 1-year multiple-entry medical visa at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones. Minors of age, disabled persons or individuals that due to their health cannot travel and reside alone have the opportunity to apply for a visa for direct family, legal representatives of caregivers.
In order to apply for this visa the patient’s medical record and information on where and what medical treatment will be taken in Argentina is required. If treatment is sought at a public hospital a statement has to be signed by the director of the hospital. If treatment is sought at a private clinic or doctor, the statement has to be legalized by the Health Department.
Cosmetic Surgery is popular in Argentina and not even the economic crisis could stop it. Cosmetic surgery was one of the first industries to come back on track after the crisis. With highly trained specialists and far lower prices than Europe and North America, Argentina sees increased numbers of foreigners visiting the country to have cosmetic surgery. Clinics are found all over the country and registered at the Argentinean Society of Estetic and Reconstructive Surgery, La Sociedad Argentina de Cirurgia Estética y Reparadora.
Especially aesthetic surgery is popular in Argentina. Procedures such as eyelid corrections, plastic correction of ears, nose surgery, lip surgery, face-lifting, breast remodelling (enlargement, reduction, correction), liposuction, dentistry and scar correction are offered by various, high quality clinics and hospitals.