Work Abroad but earn in USD

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Health Insurance For Expats

I received a question about health insurance for short-term visitors to Buenos Aires. Although I'm not entirely positive about this issue, I'll try as best as I can to answer it.

Reader's Question

I am moving to BA for four months starting in March. You mentioned that you have good, inexpensive health insurance. Can I get health insurance for only four months and without a DNI? I'm just planning to do the 90-day travel visa, which I'll renew for the last month. My US insurance (through my law firm) will only cover "emergencies" and for that they charge $475/month, which I don't want to pay.

Health Insurance Without a DNI

I'm not sure whether or not it is possible to get health insurance without a DNI or residency visa. My guess is that it would be up to each individual provider. I have a faint memory of Hospital Alemán asking me to provide either a DNI or passport when I signed up. I don't remember for sure, though. They could have just asked me for my DNI and I'm remembering incorrectly.

Maybe some other expat who doesn't have a visa/DNI could comment on this issue? Did anyone out there get a health plan without being an official resident?

Regular health needs are so cheap here that you really don't need health insurance. The last few times I came here (when I wasn't a resident), I regularly went to the dentist, a doctor, bought medicine, etc., and I didn't have a health plan. You might pay $100 pesos for a doctor or dentist visit, for example.

Keeping Your U.S. Health Insurance

I also currently maintain a U.S. health plan for emergencies, which I advise you to do as well. As good as the care is in Argentina, who knows whether they'd give you an organ if you needed one? I still like having the option of going back to the U.S. for health care if I become gravely ill.

I have U.S. health insurance with a $10,000 annual deductible. For a single man in his twenties, the cost of this plan is less than $500 per year. I then combine this plan with a Health Savings Account, which allows me to put up to $2700 per year in a tax free savings account. The money deposited is deducted from your income tax and the interest earned from the money deposited in the account is tax free as well.

If your marginal tax rate is 30%, that means that you'll save $810 in Federal Taxes by using this Health Savings Account, more than offsetting the cost of the health insurance. For expatriates, this means they can essentially get free U.S. health coverage.

In the event that you become gravely ill, you can withdraw the money tax free from the Health Savings Account to pay for your medical expenses up to the $10,000 deducible. The money can be withdrawn throughout your lifetime tax free for any medical expense except the purchase of health insurance. If you manage to be healthy throughout your entire life and not need the money, you can still withdraw it without penalties during retirement, just like an IRA. So, there's really no downside to having a Health Savings Account.

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Blogger Chris said...

I recently inquired into a health insurance policy at a private clinic and hospital for an A1A polilcy with no deductibles for US$50/month and you simply have to say you live / reside in Argentina. There's no requirement to show a DNI, etc. I keep the policy since I'm going and coming a lot; I've found medicine (private) in Argentina to be pretty good.

1/17/2006 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger johnny said...

Is there a local health plan that includes care provided through the local British hospital ? I have not done much legwork yet, but I have heard many good reports about that facility. I hope to be in BA for good, and want to find a decent comprehensive plan before ditching my plan in the US that is still taking a "healthy" bite. Thanks !

1/20/2006 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger SamBsAs said...

I do not have a DNI number and had no problem getting coverage from Swiss Medical Group. Includes dental as well as health.

1/21/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Many of the companies will simply ask you for a passport and don't ask for a DNI. The health care is comprehensive and believe me, as someone about to start a family, I've done a lot of checking. I've spent a lot of time during my trips talking to women about their health plans, and if a woman is comfortable with the health care then I'm good with that. There are lots to choose from including OSDE, Medicus, Swiss Medical, OMINT, and SPM and they all have websites you can check. I plan to dump my overpriced underserviced U.S. health plan.

1/23/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger said...

I recently got a health plan from Medicus for myself and my husband with just our passports. Total cost less than us 200 and no deductibles or copays. Only have to wait 2 months to get pregnant. I worked with a woman there who spoke enough English to get through and she was EXTREMELY helpful. If you want more information about the contact or about the plan we took, feel free to email me at .

2/13/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Inaki said...

I think the only problem for us living in Argentina is what EXPATRIADO said: "What if I need an organ?" or "What if i need cancer treatment?" or something really serious happens? Private health insurance is cheap and will cover you fine in a basic way, but if you want to get treatment from the best specialists it won't be included in your policy because they work out of the networks.
I choose to take a worldwide policy with a high deductible that allows me to be treated everywhere in the world, plus a local Argentinian policy (osde)for the small things. So if need treatment in the US or back home in Spain, I still have it. If you need any help with this please feel free email me at

2/16/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Trevor said...

I would have to recommend Swiss Medical for outstanding service and professionalism. I'm an Australian living in Buenos Aires and my wife recently had a baby.

Everything is good now but at the time we had some horrible complications that resulted a lengthy hospital stay, emergency operations and neo-natal care for one month.

Apart from the monthly medical contributions ($500 pesos) the total cost to us was $0.00. The actual Ottamendi hospital bill was US$10,000 and they covered everything from specialist doctors, post operative care to ongoing neonatal care.

I can only compare this service to the inadequate level of service we receive in Australia.

There's something to be said for socialistic influences :-)


3/25/2006 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Trevor said...

One more thing....

If you have a baby in Buenos Aires, try Ottamendi. Viva Ottamendi!

They have the best doctors and neo-natal staff in Latin America.

All the doctors spoke english to a high standard which made my life very easy. Believe me, when you're having complications, broken Spanish does not make the cut.

Ottamendi doctors saved the life of my wife and baby. I owe them much.

Post pregnancy we had a two bedroom first class private room. It looked more like a hotel than hospital. I slept in the second room.

The cafe on floor 6 sucks big time. Eat at the cafe on purredon y cordoba, just one block walk if you can.

3/25/2006 04:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are planing to move to Mendoza in a year, we are going back for visit next February.
The no 1 concern is to transfer our medical record, do we need to have it translate, how do you transfer prescripton? I do not have a lot of issue, but my husband need to have a family doctor that can follow him.
How much can it cost per month to get a good service. Can you get a family doctor to do yearly check up,like in Canada and the US?

We are going to work toward our temporary resendency paperwork this fall.



7/08/2007 02:52:00 PM  

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