All Chileans have access to the public health care system offered through the Ministry of Health, the National Health Care Fund and municipalities. This type of health care is financially supported through social security taxes collected from all working Chileans. When a Chilean receives medical care under this system, he or she is required to pay up to 50% of the cost. With this type of coverage, Chileans who wish to choose their doctor or specialist must pay an extra premium to the National Health Care Fund.

Chileans with little or no income can get free treatment at public hospitals. In general, the services and facilities offered in the public hospitals are not as advanced as those available in the private sector. Furthermore, Chileans living in some of the more isolated rural areas of the country cannot get to the more advanced health facilities, which are generally located near the urban centres.

Chileans who can afford to do so seek out health care coverage in the private sector. They pay for private health insurance, which gives them access to some of the finest medical facilities in Chile. Modern equipment and well-qualified medical professionals are generally available at private hospitals.

The government is trying to deal with inequalities in the health system through better management of the public health care system. It is making efforts to ensure equal access to health care services and to upgrade public health care facilities. For example, the government is considering using video links in more than 50 hospitals to give all patients better access to specialists.

A traditional form of healing is practised by the Machi (shaman) of the Mapuche people. Both Mapuche and non-Mapuche may consult the Machi when they fall ill. They will bring a jar containing the urine of the sick person. The jar is placed where the spirits can enter it. The Machi observes the liquid in the jar carefully, asks some questions, and then recommends a treatment. This may be an instruction to change diet or lifestyle, or the Machi may give the person a natural remedy to take.

Did you know?

Diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart disease, are the leading causes of death in Chile. They account for approximately 58% of all deaths.