As an expat, the quality of healthcare that you can expect in Cyprus will depend on whether you are accessing the public system or opting for private health cover, and in addition, which region of the country you are based in. Treatment and insurance cover will differ depending on whether you are resident in the Greek or the Turkish part of the island, and in addition, whether you are classed as a resident or a visitor.
Public healthcare in Cyprus
The state health insurance system, Gesy, is regulated by the Ministry of Health and financed out of taxes. Cyprus is currently overhauling its health insurance system, a policy which has been supported by the IMF and the EU, among others, but it is resulting in substantial changes to the system.If you are a resident of the island, and are registered with Gesy, you will be covered for the following:
• basic medical care
• specialist care
• laboratory work
• maternity care
• some prescriptions
• basic dental treatment
You can also buy ‘stamps’ for costs for lab tests and medicines – these are vouchers from €.50 up to €10.00. You can get these from hospitals, medical centres or the post office.
From 2020, patients registered under the national scheme will need to make small co-payments as follows:
• per pharmaceutical product :€1
• per medical device or sanitary article: €1
• laboratory examination or laboratory test group:€1
• visiting a specialist (there are some exceptions): €6
• per health care service in radiology / radio diagnostics: €10
• per visit to a nurse or midwife: €6
• visiting another healthcare professional: €10
Access to GPs and inpatient services will be free at the point of delivery, unless you exceed the number of visits per year determined by your age group as below:
• Birth to 1 year: 10 visits
• 1 – 3 years: 8 visits
• 3 – 6 years: 7 visits
• 6 – 11 years: 4 visits
• 11 – 18 years: 3 visits
• 18 – 41 years: 4 visits
• 41 – 51 years: 6 visits
• 51 – 65 years: 8 visits
• 65 + : 10 visits
If you have a chronic condition, however, the proposed excess visit charge of €15-30 will not be applied to you, and you will also be allowed repeat prescriptions without having to go back to your GP.
If you do not have an income – for example unemployed people, children, students and soldiers – you will still have equal access to healthcare services.
Some medications also fall under Gesy, including over 1000 drugs, but the list is constantly being updated since the new system was brought in.
Although Gesy seems to have been implemented reasonably smoothly, reports on the standards of public healthcare in Cyprus are varied. Some expats say that they have been very satisfied with the system, while others report less positive experiences. The main reason why Cyprus is overhauling its public health system is due to criticisms from the WHO among others that the island lacked a properly functioning national health service: Gesy has been brought in to address this.
Cyprus was, for example, excluded from the 2017 Euro Health Consumer Index (EHCI) because of this lack. The report stated that the Cypriot public expenditure on health has been the lowest in Europe (around 41 – 42% of total health expenditure).
Questions were also raised regarding medical practice: for instance, the relatively high number of Caesarean deliveries in maternity care. Expat mothers report that Caesareans seem to be the default option for giving birth and that they have had to insist on vaginal deliveries. The WHO suggests that the percentage of Caesarians should be in the region of 10-15%, only when medically necessary due to the risk factor, whereas in Cyprus the percentage is around 60%. The Health Consumer Powerhouse says that high caesarean rates tend to indicate poor prenatal support and poor baby delivery services.
The EHCI report also queries the low number of doctor’s visits per capita, particularly in the private sector, and suggests that this may be due to under-reporting for tax evasion reasons. Cyprus (unlike Albania, which is also queried in the report) has an average number of doctors.
The better news is that the establishment of Gesy shows a commitment on the part of the Cypriot government to improving the standard of public healthcare. Cyprus has suffered over the last few years due to austerity measures and the recession, but an economic recovery is generally considered to be now underway.
Private healthcare in Cyprus
The island has around 75 private hospitals and clinics, along with a number of smaller providers. Overall, expats who have used the private sector report a high level of satisfaction with the service: the size of the island and the relatively small number of patients often seems to result in a more personal service.
If you don’t qualify for public health insurance, or opt not to register with the state system, you have a choice of out-of-pocket payments or private cover. Some examples of out-of-pocket costs for basic treatment are as follows:
• GP visit: €50 euros
• one-day stay in hospital (without treatment): €150-200
• 3-4 day hospitalisation for giving birth: €2000-3000
• pediatricians’ services (birth and 6-7 consultations ): €400-500
Cyprus is a destination for dental tourism and treatment is of a high standard, and cheaper than elsewhere. It is also a destination for private medical treatment generally.
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