Healthcare System for Expatriates Living in Belgium
The healthcare system in Belgium is considered to be world-class in terms of quality and efficiency in Europe. This is one of the reasons why thousands of expats move to this country in search of convenient and stress-free life. The Belgian health system comprises of two sectors – the state and private sector. The state or public healthcare system is managed through funds accumulated through the compulsory health insurance system. This means that the residents have to pay for health insurance to enjoy various subsidized healthcare services including maternity, doctors, hospital care, dental care, and prescribed medications.
The functioning of the public healthcare system is the responsibility of both federal and regional governments. This also implies that the Federal Public Service for Health, Food Chain Safety, and the Environment are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day administration of the public healthcare. Belgium prides itself on being ranked fifth in the 2018 Euro Health Consumer Index. Experts believe that this country has the most generous healthcare system in Europe.
Overview of Healthcare in Belgium
Residents in Belgium have adequate access to medical care through mandatory health insurance. Registering for social security and paying for health insurance is a must if you are living and working in Belgium. This will let you have easy access to subsidized public healthcare services. People without subsidized public health facilities should purchase private health insurance to get the required coverage for various health treatments.
How to Register for Healthcare in Belgium as an Expat?
To access most Belgian healthcare facilities, you will have to apply or register for social security before choosing a mutuelle/ziekenfonds. This can be done by your employer; else you should go to the nearest social security office along with valid ID proof including passport, residence permit and proof of address which can be the latest utility bill. Post-registration, you will be receiving a social security card which is also known as Carte SIS (now eID). You can show this card to your chosen health insurance company. The healthcare fees or charges for various treatments would then be reimbursed by your health cover fund.
Private Healthcare in Belgium
Both private and public healthcare in the country run beside each other as the physicians and health specialists work in both sectors. This would mean that you will have to check in advance whether you are getting services that suit your needs. Else, you can always opt for private healthcare facilities by purchasing a private health insurance plan or pay for the expenses on your own. Most of the private insurance companies in Belgium expect you to pay medical expenses up front and get them reimbursed later. A private insurance policy can also act as a solid backup if you are already eligible for state coverage.
How the Belgian Healthcare System Works for Expats?
Expats who live and work in Belgium are covered by Belgium’s own state healthcare system, provided they have completed all necessary paperwork. To begin, as an expat, you have to first apply for Belgium’s social security. Post that, you can proceed with choosing health insurance (known as mutuelle/ziekenfonds locally). Your employer can help obtain this insurance. You can also visit the social security office based close by, provide your valid ID (passport or similar), residence permit, and a proof of address.
You will receive a social security card (known as eID, formally called Carte SIS) after some time. Which you can share with your preferred health insurance company. Once that’s done, all the healthcare charges you incur in the future will be billed to that insurance company. You must also note that healthcare is not free in Belgium. You may be asked to pay about 25% share for availing general medical care or 40% for specialist services, with the insurance company taking care of the rest.
Pharmacies in Belgium for Expatriates
Pharmacies (known as pharmacie or apotheek in Belgian) have a green neon cross outside them. Most of the pharmacies in Belgium are open from Monday to Friday, and for some time on Saturday mornings. Emergency services may need a few of them to stay accessible round-the-clock too. However, they do not refund otherwise, including non-prescription medicines. In terms of insurance, some medicines may need you to make up to 80% of payment, while others may be fully covered under your plan.
Emergency Medical Care in Belgium
Belgium’s emergency services respond promptly almost all the time. Those who have insurance policies covering the cost of an ambulance may visit any hospital as per their plan. In the absence of insurance, the ambulance will take you to the nearest hospital. The emergency number to call is 100, though expats can also dial 112, which is the general European emergency services number. Expats can also seek the contact details of their local pharmacies and hospitals.
Best Private International Medical Insurance for Expats in Belgium
Every expat is always recommended to obtain international health insurance before coming to Belgium. This saves them from facing any hassle later on. And also covers them for all kinds of treatment, along with medical costs. While there is Belgium’s social security that does a similar job with the country, your global health insurance can work as an additional cover for all unforeseen occurrences.