Learn about the Healthcare System & Insurance Options for Expats in Estonia
Having gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Estonian health sector underwent countless reforms. From a centralized hospital system struggling with overcapacity, the country has moved to a more decentralized and efficient model of healthcare. Initiatives on national health programs in the country have left a positive impact on the overall health of the population. Several key health indicators point toward an appreciable improvement in the healthcare sector. It has led to an increase in average life expectancy at birth. Here’s what you need to know about the Estonia healthcare system and insurance options for expats.
However, despite the overall health situation improving, Estonia trails behind many other EU countries. Expats visiting the country are advised to purchase international health insurance as a precautionary measure that can also cover them for all medical expenses around the world. It is vital to visit your doctor a month before traveling to the country. CDC has more information on vaccinations to get before traveling to Estonia.
Overview of Healthcare in Estonia
The Estonian healthcare system currently incorporates an obligatory insurance system and makes universal access to healthcare available through private health providers. The Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for overseeing the administration of healthcare in collaboration with public independent bodies and hospitals, private healthcare units, NGOs, and other independent bodies. The Estonian government has a minor and voluntary role to play in organizing and funding medical services. This integrated medical system is internationally famous for its efficiency in carrying out healthcare reforms.
However, there are substantial challenges regarding the accessibility and quality of healthcare that need to be overcome.
How the Estonian Healthcare Works for Expats?
The healthcare system in Estonia is a social insurance that provides healthcare to one and all. Medical treatment is accessible in all regions.
The healthcare system in Estonia is digitally advanced. It was one of the first countries to initiate the use of electronic health records. It centralized patient data and recently introduced the e-Prescription service. Digitalized systems have helped upgrade healthcare services throughout the country. They have also allowed easy access to medical records for healthcare professionals and patients.
If you are an expat living in Estonia or have an Estonian employer, you have access to health insurance from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF) as long as you pay taxes to the government. An expat requires a residence permit for employment and an Estonian ID number that will connect to the EHIF. It will ensure that you can access healthcare services. People who belong to the EU countries and have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can access medical services at a lower cost.
Public Healthcare in Estonia
The Estonian Health Insurance Fund, the Ministry of Social Affairs and its agencies, and the independent units operating under private law are primarily responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the healthcare system. It has benefited the healthcare system immensely.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and its agencies superintend key areas of the Estonian healthcare system. It takes care of the development of national healthcare policies and its legislation. The Ministry also supervises compliance regulations, collects and analyses data on the volume of activities and economic indicators of service providers, conducts registration of healthcare professionals, and provides licensing of facilities. All these factors put together to ensure that during emergencies, funds reach even those who are uninsured.
Private Healthcare in Estonia
In case you are not eligible for health insurance or treatment in any public healthcare facility, you must obtain the same from a private healthcare provider. A health insurance policy must cover you at least during your stay in Estonia. Some private companies provide health insurance for expats. Before opting for one, you must find out whether it covers emergency medical evacuation and medical airlifting. You must also find out whether you can purchase your medical insurance directly from the EHIF.
Emergency Medical Services in Estonia
In Estonia, everyone has the right to receive emergency care even if they are not covered by health insurance. In case a person is uninsured, the State bears medical costs.
Medicines and Pharmacies
Medicines in Estonia are sold in pharmacies by pharmacists who have the relevant qualification and competence to offer necessary advice. Although specific drugs, medicines, and antibiotics are sold on prescription only, essential medication can be sold and purchased without prescriptions. Emergency pharmacies are open for 24 hours. Pharmacies, in general, are located in every market area and are open during usual business hours.
Best Private International Medical Insurance Plans for Expats in Estonia
Expats in Estonia must procure a comprehensive international health insurance policy that provides overseas medical evacuation and airlifting coverage in the event of a medical emergency. Out of all the prominent international health insurance plans, those offered by Cigna Global and Aetna International are recognized by private hospitals and healthcare institutions of Estonia.