Public and Private Healthcare Systems in Argentina

Understand the differences between government-funded health services and private health insurance and which medical costs are covered…

Government-funded Health Services

Public health care, which covers approximately 50 percent of the population, is funded by the Argentinian government. The Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud) is responsible for public health services, government hospitals and medical services. The running of actual services, however, often takes place at a municipal level, which means that there are different levels of quality within the country.

Public medical institutions are free of charge for both nationals and foreigners. A patient’s identification documents are required. The only charges for both nationals and foreigners are prescription charges for outpatients. Pharmacies require a prescription for most medicines. No special registration is required to benefit from government-funded health services. However, long waiting lists for medical care means that many people choose to take out private health insurance.

Social Security (Obras Sociales)

In formal employment, both employers and employees are obliged to pay into a health insurance scheme organized by a trade union. This is the most common form of health insurance in the country. There are numerous schemes run by different unions, all overseen by the National Health Insurance Administration (La Administración Nacional del Seguro de Salud). The unions often do not provide services directly, but rather outsource to the private sector.

The cost of medical care varies, and patients have to pay the difference between the cost of treatment and a fixed fee.

Private Medical Sector

In Argentina the private sector is thriving but fragmentary, with many establishments and individuals not affiliated with any organization. They provide care mainly to those with private insurance, or those who are part of a national health insurance scheme (Obras Sociales).

Private health insurance

There is a wide range of private insurers to choose from, both national and international. Some private hospitals in large cities provide health plans which expatriates and residents can enroll in. Private health insurance premiums vary depending on age and family needs, as well as the risk that the insured person may represent. In general these companies do not cover pre-existing conditions.

Patients with no health insurance have to meet the costs of treatment in private hospitals.