Chile’s Congress Passes Bill Supporting Private Healthcare Insurers

(Bloomberg) -- Chile’s lawmakers voted to pass a bill that seeks to alleviate some of the pressures from the country’s beleaguered private health-care system, including mandating payments of $1.6 billion to citizens.

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The bill that was passed by Congress on Monday mandates private insurers, known as Isapres, to pay back overcharges to insured clients and adopt more restrictive rules for setting rates. But the bill also gives insurance providers additional time to make those payments, as much as 13 years.

Lawmakers are hoping the bill will be a viable repayment plan for insurers in Chile, which are under financial strain due to a 2022 Supreme Court order that mandated the repayment of some overcharges. Still, the bill may leave companies facing risks due to a drop in income.

Leftist President Gabriel Boric has supported the bill, even as it had put him in an awkward position to have to prop up a health-care system that caters to wealthier citizens. Many legislators of the government coalition said that they “reluctantly” voted in favor.

The private insurers woes arose from the 2022 court ruling demanding companies compensate clients for overcharges incurred in recent years. International insurance providers like UnitedHealth and the British United Provident Association, or Bupa, operate in Chile and have been impacted in recent years by the system’s problems.

Read more: UnitedHealth Slams Chile as New Rules Stoke Insurance Crisis

A joint commission approved and sent the bill to Senate last Wednesday after days of intense debate. On Monday both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies voted to pass the bill.

Chile has a dual health insurance system, with a state-owned entity called Fonasa serving about 80% of the population, while six private insurance companies cater mostly to the upper income segments. Health experts had warned that the Isapres financial problems could spread and also force a collapse of private clinics in the country.

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