Learn about the healthcare system and insurance options for expats in Greece
Greece lies in southeastern Europe, and it’s historically significant. It’s capital, Athen was once a powerful civilization and empire. It still retains its 5th-century BC landmarks. Greece is also known for its beaches in Mykonos and picturesque view in Santorini. The standard of healthcare in Greece is high, but due to its previous financial crisis, the Greek healthcare system has taken a hit. Greece does not have a shortage of good doctors. But its lack of resources, cuts in vital hospital personnel, and drop in drug spending have resulted in longer wait times in hospitals and clinics.
Furthermore, it affects the quality of treatments. Consequently, the private healthcare sector is growing with its somewhat affordable services. Here’s what you need to know about Greece’s healthcare system and insurance options for expats.
Overview of Healthcare System in Greece
Greece operates a National Health System (ESY), which aims to provide free healthcare to all residents.
Although the standard of healthcare in Greece is above par, there’s a variation between the mainland and its surrounding smaller islands. In short, if you require more than a basic health standard of healthcare, they will transfer you to Athens or Thessaloniki. Hence, it is essential to visit your doctor a month before departure. The CDC has information on vaccinations you should get before traveling to Greece.
Greece Healthcare System for Expats
Emergency care in Greece is free, no matter where you’re from. However, if you’re an employed expat working in the country, have a social security number, and contribute to public health insurance. You have to pay for your medical bills for most primary care visits.
IKA is the largest Social Security Organization in Greece. It covers employees in Greece or expats overseas who have an employer living in Greece. It also includes full-time or part-time labor workers who are not under other primary insurance agency. OAEE is the social security fund for self-employed expats.
As such, many expats choose to use international health insurance to ensure they have access to care. It also reduces their waiting times.
Public Healthcare in Greece
Despite Greece’s current reputation in healthcare, public hospitals in the country are adequate. Professionals in the public sector to their best to provide quality care. Unfortunately, patients would have to go through a long wait period to receive care.
It is important to note that hospitals in remote locations on islands may provide poor healthcare. If you want to get the best public hospitals with excellent healthcare services, then opt hospitals in the major cities. Moreover, medical staff in Greece have intermediate proficiency in the English language. But again, it differs from city to island.
Expats who are new to Greece and have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can access healthcare for a brief time. It is important to note that it does not cover the cost of private care.
Private Healthcare in Greece
As the private health sector is booming, expats can access healthcare services in private hospitals. Most physicians in private practice also have contracts with one or more insurance funds. These physicians also work in diagnostic centers, laboratories, and outpatient departments in private hospitals.
Private hospitals in Greece are less affected by the country’s financial crisis. It has better facilities with newer equipment. You’re also like to find doctors and nurses speak fluent English. Many citizens take private health insurance to cover medical expenses that are not under the public health scheme. Similarly, we advise expats to opt for international health insurance if they want access to private healthcare.
Emergency Services in Greece
EKAV is a public ambulance service that is widely available in larger cities. Its response time is usually good. However, you may not be able to access this service on some islands and rural areas. As such, your best alternatives would be private ambulances, EKAV helicopters, and taxis. When looking for international health insurance, ensure medical evacuation such as airlift is included in your coverage.
Expats can dial 166 in the case of an emergency. It is vital to note that only some operators may be able to speak English. If you want an English operator, then dial the European emergency number 112.
Pharmacies in Greece
There are many pharmacies in Greece, and most pharmacists speak good English. You will be able to find more pharmacies in larger cities and are usually have a green cross marking against a white background. Medicines are plentiful and easily accessible, and Greek pharmacists are well knowledgeable.
Best International Medical Insurance for Expats Living in Greece
We always recommend expats to buy themselves an international health insurance plan before moving to a new country. It helps keep them and their families secure from any unplanned medical expenses in a foreign country. Besides that, these plans help them lead their lives peacefully in their new country. Expats can compare the plans offered by different companies before choosing the best plan for themselves.
For expats planning a move to Greece, the most popular plans are the ones offered by leading international health insurance companies like Allianz International and Cigna. Many of their plans are customizable and can provide optimum support in the time of need.