Getting Health Insurance in Uruguay – update from a major study

US National Institutes of Health - Online Library LogoWe’ll have a new post in our ongoing series, Getting Health Insurance in Uruguay, later this week. I’ve just been reading over a number of definitive sources, including a major analysis published by Mexico’s Public Health agency. They’ve been doing a series of reports on the health systems of other Latin American countries. The Uruguay study was published in 2011, from data in 2009, after Uruguay’s Health Care Reform law came into effect. It gives much more detail about the three tiered system of Uruguayan health care I mentioned our Part 1 and Part 2 posts.

The formal report, Sistema de Salud en Uruguay, is in Spanish. I’ve been reading it in both the original and in two alternate machine translations. Will have links, and our perspective here at Uruguay Expat Life / Uruguay For Me, coming up this week.  Meanwhile for an overview, here is the abstract, in English, at the US National Institutes of Health website. If you’d like to read the original, it’s here for free at SciElo.

As a sampler, did you know that over 50% of the population here (including me and Lisa Marie Mercer) choose the cooperative, “mutualista” system of paid by social security payroll tax, or voluntary buy-in (for all of about $85 US monthly per person), and 37% are in the fully-subsidized Public Health tier? Only 2% go for the Private system. The rest are covered either by the military, or some other organizational-specific system.

If you read the typical “Institutional Expat” blogs, forums, websites, Facebook groups, you may get the impression that only the Private system is any good. Or worse, that the only thing worth having is some kind of special “Expat Cover”. Baloney! (and malarkey too).

Yes, some of those Expat Cover companies advertise their Expat Health Insurance polices on Uruguay Expat Life, via the Google AdSense network. We’re fine with that. Because they are perfectly good options for people who are in fact accurately defined as “expats” – people temporarily in a foreign land, no matter how long they remain. That’s entirely the appropriate perspective for somebody here on a work posting, who expects that her assignment will end or she will be transferrred to another country, or back “home”.  Also good for initial coverage and a feeling of security, while you are doing a Uruguay test drive or reality check; a timeboxed stay here or in some other country to try out living like a local, before commiting.

We’ve discussed those types of Expats before, and I have a taxonomy of Expat Types, in this Cost of Living Uruguay vs USA post from last year. Check out my commentary at the International Herald Tribune / New York Times Global Edition on their infamous The Dark Side of the Expat Life article for more on my perspective about “Expat Types”. Also site co-owner Lisa Marie Mercer’s comment at the IHT.

If you are in fact an immigrant to Uruguay, rather than than a transitory home-country-tethered expat, then you owe it to yourself, your family, your bank account, to investgate the healthcare system in Uruguay, as it is used as health care for Uruguayans. Very few of whom choose to be “one of the 2%”. Including most expats. Even many Type 1 or Type 2 expats. It’s fine to call yourself an “Expat” (and hey, it helps with the search rankings!) But if you live here, Be Here Now. Good advice for wherever you may be. “Wherever you go, there you are.”

And no, “Immigrant” does not only mean someone who moves from the Third World to the First World, as a boorish elitist Uruguay-denigrating “Expat” on one of those Institutional Expat sites quite recently put it. Nor does “Expat” only mean “someone who moves from the First World to the Third World“. I had plenty of Mexican Expat buddies in Breckenridge, Colorado. No, not “illegal immigrants”, people with proper visas living and working in the States, ofen in specialized industries.

Uruguayan Health care is affordable, universal, and has plenty of choice. It is not perfect, but the best health care is the health care you can actually afford. Which is exactly why our home country, the United States, does not have “the best health care in the world”, and those who think it does are either part of the 1%, or are utterly deluded and brainwashed. More on how Uruguayan Health Care works, many details on the system of health care in Uruguay, and no-sugarcoated opinion, later this week on Uruguay Expat Life.

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Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at