We’re getting mixed messages from Greece these days. Firstly, the country is recovering economically. Secondly, the beaches and tourist sites are still stunning. But thirdly, that austerity still affects everyday life, including health. Hardly surprising then, that people who would like to move there are confused! So how is Greek healthcare?

Healthcare is certainly one thing to get sorted quickly once you arrive. You will need to locate your nearest Greek health services, including a doctor, emergency room, where you can get hold of any medications you may need on a regular basis, and all emergency numbers. Your EHIC wil cover you until at least December 2019. But after that? And even before, can you rely on the Greek health service to look after you? Or should you should take out an insurance policy and have private healthcare?

Can you rely on the Greek health service to look after you? Or should you should take out an insurance policy and have private healthcare?

Greece has more doctors per person than the UK

If you’re established as a resident in Greece by the time the UK leaves the EU you will continue to enjoy the same healthcare as Greek people. So will your children and grandchildren. If you are working legally in Greece, or self-employed and paying state insurance contributions, you may well be entitled to Greek healthcare even if you arrive after Brexit. This assumes, of course, that you will be allowed to work there. We do expect there to be working visa arrangements, just as there were before we joined the EU. So how good is Greece’s state healthcare system?

Greek health services

Certainly, Greece is still recovering from the economic crisis and its journey close to bankruptcy less than two years ago. However, you may be surprised to learn that generally Greece’s state healthcare is rated as excellent. In 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked Greece as 14th out of 190 countries for health systems. The UK was ranked 18th.

The Greeks are known for caring about their health too. After all, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, was Greek. Even today, one of the first things you’ll notice is the huge number of high street chemists. Despite a cut in public spending on health (down to around 8% of GDP annually), this remains an important area for Greek citizens. Greece came second out of 38 countries for social equality of health outcomes in a survey by the OECD. Even those on the lowest income in Greece enjoy better health than the wealthiest in many countries.

To read more about your healthcare options in Greece, and in 11 other countries, read our guide Healthcare Abroad 2018.

The latest reports from the WHO back this up, and historically the Greek population has been one of the healthiest in Europe. Life expectancy for men is 78.3, and for women is 83.6. This puts the country at 25th globally for world life expectancy.

But what of the reports during the height of the financial that hospitals are running out of drugs? Well, perhaps similar reports have reached Greece about patients in the UK’s NHS being left on trolleys in corridors? You will find, just as in the UK, that there are waiting lists and some services are rationed. However, the evidence is that you will get good basic treatment from the Greek state healthcare system.

Costs of Greek state healthcare

Under Greek state healthcare you will receive basic care free of charge, with only a €1 cost for each prescription you receive. If you are of pensionable age, you will need to apply to the UK Pension Service for your S1 form. You must then register with the relevant authority in Greece before you can access health services in the country. If you are not of pensionable age, you will need to register with the Greek authorities for a Social Insurance Number from the National Organisation for Healthcare (EOPPY in Greek).

If you’re paying for healthcare in euros but receiving an income in pounds, speak to a currency and payments specialist about how to get money sent to you in Greece efficiently and regularly. We recommend Smart, ranked as “Excellent” Trustpilot for money transfer and currency exchange.

Once you are making National Insurance contributions, either through employment or self-employment you will be entitled to the state healthcare on the same basis as a Greek national. We recommend getting in touch with your local EOPPY office to find out about registering for your nearest doctor, and where your local facilities are.

Cost of going private

Whe it comes to paying for private coverage, the question really is how long is a piece of string? It will depend on pre-existing conditions, family history, lifestyle and age. You can also specify which private treatments you would like to be covered for and which you will pay as you go. Nevertheless, as a very rough ballpark figure, a budget of around €500 for a family of four per month or €800 for a retired couple would give you a choice of providers.

If you are living on an island, you will probably be treated by the local state doctor anyway.

In any case, if you are living on an island, you will probably be treated by the local state doctor anyway. And while Greece’s state healthcare services are generally excellent, you may find it difficult to access certain services if you are living on an island as opposed to the mainland. Private hospitals will usually only be found in the larger cities as well, and you will certainly pay extra for the right to be collected by helicopter in an emergency.

Bear all this in mind when you negotiate over a health insurance policy. You need to ensure that you are covered for everything you may require. Remember that private companies will not treat you as generously as the NHS if you have omitted to pay for coverage for the health problem you end up suffering. Even if your employer pays for your policy, you may need to purchase additional coverage in some areas to ensure you do not end up with a hefty bill.

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