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One of the questions that gets alot of play over on a board or two that I post on is health care in Chile. About which I can say, it is generally good. There are two systems of health insurance, public and private, FONASA and ISAPRE, respectively which I believe anyone can opt into, though the prices as an individual are higher than as part of a collective contract. I continued my health insurance from my previous employer when I went indie, and if you want to know how much that costs, email me, you know where. Talking about the cashflow factor online is sure to get you some freakshows, and I attract enough already as it is.

Basically how it works is thusly: You get sick! oh noes! what to do? You call or make an appointment online. But where? MegaSalud and IntegraMedica are two kind of catch-all medical centers, though those of you who live further uptown or have posher tastes in clinics may prefer Clinica Santa Maria, conveniently located on one bus route, across the river from the Salvador Metro station, or the Clinicas Alemana, Vitacura, or Arauco Salud (at the mall!) or even MEDS, if your problem is sports-related. Downtown, less spiffy options include the Posta Central (really only for people who have FONASA, or public insurance), and very good care can also be had at Clínica Davila, Hospital de Profesores, and a number of others (pimp your favorite, if you like).

So. You haven’t quite coughed up a lung, yet. Please arrive at the doctor somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes early. More than fifteen or so minutes, and they won’t sell you your bono (copay coupon), so don’t think about going in the morning to buy the bono for your afternoon visit. Bono purchasing is usually done by putting your right index finger on the digital scanner, confirming your identity (no ID needed!), and they forking over the copay money, which, depending on your previsión (coverage, sorta) and the care you require will probably cost between about 3 and 10 thousand pesos ($5-$18, usually more like $7-$10, in my experience). You then wait in the waiting area until you are called to your box, or consult room, usually by the doctor himself.

You then have fifteen minutes to defend yourself from accusations of being overweight (a popular topic for all but the preternaturally thin), explain how long you’ve been in Chile, and why you came, do a quick assessment of your doctor’s English skills and oh, get the medical attention you came for.

Among the gringas that I know, we cast about good doctors’ names like hard-won treasure. It’s not that the other docs are bad, it’s just that we have expectations, formed in our home countries, of how doctors should treat us, the language they should use. I have to admit that I often choose doctors (if I don’t have any recommendations) on the basis of them having foreign-sounding names. When I was hoarse for two weeks, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever get my voice back, I went to see a doctor whose middle name was Azucena, a name I can almost guarantee does not (and did not) belong to Chilean. She was Ecuadorean, and used actual medical terminology, talking about vocal chords, trachea, and inflammation, pathologies and recovery time, and didn’t once say “gargantita” (widdle iddy bitty throat). I don’t think it’s just me, but I don’t want infantile language coming out of my medical professional’s mouth. I have a friend (who shall go nameless, even though some of you already know this story) whose gynecologist referred to her having relations with her husband as “playing mommy and daddy.”

Really? He’s a medical professional, and that’s the best he can do? I’d like to see him delivering a baby. Oh look! here comes the doll, little girl! Now you can play house!

Baby talk aside, the whole experience isn’t really so awful, though it’s best to ask for an English-speaking doc if you need one. Everyone will have an academic knowlege of English, but they may touch your back and say, “you are humid!” and you may then wonder about the precision of their words (this, too, happened to a friend). There is a long story I have to tell about the bizarre thing that happened to me one time when I went to leave blood and pipi (I mean urine) samples, which will make you laugh, or at least thank your lucky stars for those wipes they give you in the states.

For now, I leave you with healthy thoughts, assurances to my mother that I have not required medical attention any time recently, and with the reminder (those of you in Chile) that we change the clocks this Saturday. Spring forward. East Coast US-people, that will be one hour time difference. When you guys fall back there will be two. So simple, yet so confusing!