Santiago, Chile–Greetings. I’m a bit tied up with some technical preparations for this afternoon’s Atlas 400 informational teleconference. If you’re interested in the group and want to find out more, you won’t want to miss it– it’s at 3:00pm Eastern time this afternoon, and you have to register in advance here.
In the meantime, I’d like to send on a recent note penned by my friend Dr. John Cobin. John is a long-time resident of Chile and recently had to undergo surgery here. Not to worry, everything is OK… but the experience did give him the chance to write about Chile’s fantastic medical care.
No one likes to think about the need for being hospitalized or for surgery. Yet such things are unpredictable. We simply cannot presume that we will have good health all the time, especially as we grow older. This topic should be of great importance to prospective expatriates.
The country one chooses to live in should have a level of medical care that provides peace of mind.
I was in Nigeria for over a month during the first part of this year, undertaking a sponsored research project. Nigeria is definitely Third World, with incredible poverty, chaos, filth, trash problems, and backwardness.
Of course, there is a relatively small sector of the population that is wealthy. So when I got sick, which I later learned was from food poisoning, I directed the driver to take me to the hospital that is used by the foreigners.
I figured that there would be a better chance at getting decent care in such a place. As it turns out, there were three or four options in Lagos, a city of 9 million. The price was high, US$800 for a one-day stay, which was covered 100% by my private Chilean medical insurance (through reimbursement upon my return).
The Nigerian hospital was mostly clean but the level of incompetence was incredible. Three times the nurse put an IV in my hand and air bubbles were seen going down the line to my arm. Each time I made her fix the problem but she acted as if loads of air bubbles were no big deal.
The IV insert also bruised my hand significantly, causing pain for several weeks after being released. The doctors seemed to know what they were doing but the other problems really made me worry about the care and service I was getting. I certainly would not recommend that anyone go to Nigeria for medical care.
In Chile where I live, it’s a completely different story. No Latin American country’s medical services can compare to Chilean medical care, and Chile’s level of care is even above some places in Europe.
One Chilean doctor told me recently that he had been educated in Chile and did his residency in Richmond, Virginia. He stated that there is basically no difference in medical care between Santiago and major metropolitan areas in the USA.
The physicians and nurses are well-trained professionals and the machinery and equipment is the same in both places. The only difference, he noted, is that the US and Europe have vastly greater funding for research programs. Hence, Chilean doctors are simply consumers of the discoveries and information from the US and Europe.
My experience confirms this fact. In fact, medical care is far more accessible in Santiago than it is in the US because costs are so much lower, which is reflected in medical insurance premiums that are perhaps one-half or even one-third the price of inferior quality (high deductible) insurance in the USA.
A 50-year-old male will pay $200 monthly for a plan that covers 100% in the hospital and 90% of most doctor visits and lab work. This fact allows a person the flexibility to go to the doctor and have tests done more often, making medical care more efficient and of higher effective quality.
An MRI in Santiago costs US$450 without any insurance and US$14 with it, compared to US$1,500 to US$3,000 in the USA. A colonoscopy costs US$300 to US$500 in Santiago, compared to 10 times that much or more in the USA.
Having a baby at a good Santiago hospital will run around US$2,000 to US$4,000, adding another US$1,500 for a C-section. Even rural hospitals in the USA cost more than that.
A battery of blood work valued at US$1,000 in the USA will cost US$100 in Chile and maybe under US$10 with insurance. An X-ray and doctor visit for a broken ankle will run about US$100 in Santiago, and probably under US$20 with insurance. How much would the same thing run in the USA?
Moreover, those who use the private medical system experience no rationing or operation denials based on being too old. The Chilean system works.
I have had two surgeries in Santiago at a top hospital. Both of them were covered 100% by my medical insurance. My doctor did his medical schooling in Chile and his residency work at one of the top technical hospitals in Europe (located in Milan, Italy).
From the check-in process to the quality of nurses, staff, cleaning crew, food preparation people, physical therapists, and quality of private rooms, I had a very good experience both times. The results have been impressive, and I owe it to the surgeon’s skillful hands and the quality of his staff.
I only had to have one surgery (knee) as an adult in the USA, about 21 years ago, and it was a painful and memorable experience. The Oregon doctor incompetently snipped an artery in my knee which caused internal bleeding (up to a pint of blood per day), which he extracted by syringe until he could get me back into surgery to fix the problem.
On the other hand, I feel comfortable with my Chilean physician and he has made no errors in his work. I have his personal cellular phone number and he invites me to call him when I need him. He spends extra time getting to know me as a person too when we have office visits.
The fact that I can be confident about medical care makes me far more secure and happy about my decision to live in Santiago. I would recommend that readers consider this important aspect before they emigrate. Furthermore, having good medical care should be among the top 10 factors in one’s decision criteria list.
Those who move to Chile, especially Santiago, will find little to grumble about on that score.
Simon again– if you’re interested in finding out more about John’s experiences in Chile, you may consider checking out his book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers.
Talk to you in a few hours.
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