Health insurance in BA for a US citizen

hepdoll

Registered
Hi everyone,

I've read a number of the health insurance threads already and they've been helpful, but I hope you can help me with a few specific questions. I'm going to be in BA for awhile, as a tourist technically (renewing my visa every 90 days), and I have citizenship in the United States.

First, am I even eligible to purchase a BA/Argentinean health insurance plan? I'm tempted to do that instead of retaining my coverage in the US, which only will cover me here if I find myself in an emergency, because I'd rather be able to go in for preventative care, dental care, etc.

Secondly, do you have any idea about whether taking on an insurance plan in BA will qualify as "continuous coverage" for when I eventually return to the United States? I don't have any pre-existing conditions right now, but who knows what may come up and I don't want to be denied coverage due to a US insurance company being able to claim that I had a gap in my coverage.

And third, is there a specific plan that you would recommend?

Thanks for your help!
Liz
 

Charlsi

Registered
Hey Liz,
I am from the US too, also here as a "tourist". I walked into a Galeno office one day and a lady sat down with me and showed me all three plans. I chose the mid-range plan (Plata), and I signed a form, payed cash (about $70USD) and now I am covered.
As for coverage: I went to the Trinidad Medical Center in Palermo, which is very nice, just the other day. They checked me out, turns out I have Laryngitis. The doctor wrote me a prescription. I got it filled at a local pharmacy, and 40% of the cost was covered. So, Dr's visit and 2 prescriptions only cost about 45 pesos in total.
They also cover dental, psychology, and tons of preventative care. I have been really happy (especially when comparing it to the disaster that passes as "health insurance" in the states..it's a new sensation not feeling completely ripped of by health insurance companies :)
If you decide to go with Galeno, I know there is an office on Col. Diaz and Santa Fe.

Hope this helps!

-Charlsi
 

hepdoll

Registered
Yes, thank you Charlsi! I'm so used to being 'ripped off', too, that I'm so suspicious of any company so I'm glad to hear you've liked their coverage so far. How did you hear about Galeno and why did you decide to go with them? I really appreciate your suggestions and guidance. :)
 

jkreisler

Registered
We have OSDE and are very happy with the coverage. Most of the doctors I've talked to in BsAs consider OSDE to be the best although from what I've been told Swiss Medical and Galeno are also excellent choices. Galeno and Swiss Medical seem to operate a little bit more like an HMO in the states. They have "medical centers" but you are still permitted to see tons of private doctors that will be listed in your plans book. OSDE just has the affiliations with private doctors, so that is the big difference.

The insurance here is generally excellent compared to insurance in the US. No copays, no deductibles, and no referrals needed for anything except major procedures. I'm 36 years old and own a business in the US. I was paying over $1000USD in the US per month to cover myself and my wife with no preexisting conditions. The real kicker was the deductible and copay in the US were so high, when we actually needed medical care, we always had to pay out of pocket. In BsAs I pay a little over $100USD per person and everything is 100% covered.

To sign up all you need is a passport tourist visa is fine. The process takes about 5 minutes once they call your number. You will start receiving coverage the day you sign up. You don't pay anything when you sign up and your first bill will arrive in about 30 days.

Also, my insurance guy in the US told me that coverage from Argentina will not be considered continuous coverage in the US should you decide to return.
 

jimdepalermo

Registered
Regarding your questions,

Q1 - There's no problem obtaining great health insurance here with only your passport.

Q2 - I have no idea whether a US company would recognize Argentine coverage. Given my prejudices and experience with US health insurers, I doubt it, but you can call you current insurer and ask. Or better yet, ask them for a written response. And press your congressmen to pass meaningful health care reform!

Q3 - I did the survey of health insurers 3 years ago. Talked with doctors I know and knowledgeable porteños, reviewed the cartillas of providers, etc. Here's my thumbnail take on the options I found at that time.

In terms of reputation, I think most health providers will tell you OSDE is the top insurer. It's also the most expensive. Plans 310 and above include access to the best hospitals, including Galeno's facilities and the Hospital Alemán. The cartilla includes many of the country's top doctors in all specialties. You choose your own doctors and can have your own primary physician, rather than seeing whoever is on duty in the insurer's clinic. If you see doctors outside the cartilla, they reimburse you 60 pesos per visit, which usually covers ~30 - 50% of the fees of even the most famous practitioners here.

Galeno is also excellent and has great hospital facilities. I have OSDE coverage and was taken to Galeno's Trinidad hospital for an emergency appendectomy last summer. Terrific care by a combination of OSDE and Galeno providers at zero out-of-pocket cost. The downside of Galeno is that you're limited to their hospital, diagnostic, and laboratory facilities, although these are all very good, and the list of doctors outside their clinics is somewhat limited.

Less expensive are the single-hospital plans. Best by reputation is the Hospital Alemán. Also highly regarded is Hospital Italiano. Here you deal with the in-house staff and facilities, with few outside options.

A notch down by reputation is Swiss Medical. Farther down is Medicus. My professional sources thought both had competent, though not stellar, care providers and facilities, and I didn't explore them in detail. Several foristas here, however, have written good things about both, and they're considerably less expensive than OSDE.

I described my experience with OSDE staff in a Galena hospital when my appendix ruptured at http://baexpats.org/expat-life/5105-health-insurance-higher-end-plans-worth.html.

Other considerations in choosing an insurer are the availability of diagnostic facilities and the quality and reliability of laboratories. When I needed an MRI a year ago, I had my choice of facilities with OSDE, and it was done in an open machine at a convenient location a couple days after I received the doctor's prescription.

Not all labs here are considered reliable. For routine blood work, I use a highly-regarded lab that does scientific studies. When I pick up results there, I'm sometimes behind people grumbling about the extra cost of using this lab, but I just show my OSDE card and walk away free.

Hope this helps!
 

hepdoll

Registered
Everyone, thank you so much for your insights! This is extremely helpful and it's comforting, too, to hear what good experiences you've had when you needed care. I'm going to go out and get something very soon! I may retain coverage in the US in some minimal form, too, to keep it "continuous," even though I've been helping fight for real health care reform and I think that it can happen as long as people keep speaking up.

(Special thanks to jimdepalermo - that's some amazing information! I really appreciate you sharing everything you learned in your research; this is exactly what I was hoping to learn. VERY helpful.)
 

RSPlayer

Registered
I have coverage by Omint which I have found to be excellent. In Nov. 2007 I broke both my arms. During the ten days in the Clinica del Sol hospital (several in ICU) private room, I was visited each day by a physician employee of Omint just to “make sure everything was going OK”. My surgeon was excellent, after implanting 18 screws and 2 metal plates in my arms I was able to start physical therapy (PT) about 2 weeks after the operations. A therapist came to my house 5 days a week for about 3 months, and then I visited a PT clinic for several months after that. All the procedures, drugs, PT, follow-up visits (still going back to the surgeon twice a year), etc. had ZERO cost above my monthly payment. And the best news is after one year of PT and exercises; I was able to return to the cancha! With all the things that may be frustrating and even aggravating in Argentina, my family and I have been very pleased with the quality and affordability of health care.
 
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