What Options Are Available For Chronically Ill Expats Living In Cyprus?
If you are an expat in Cyprus, and chronically ill, your treatment options and healthcare expenses will depend both on the severity of your ailment, and on your level of health insurance.
If you have been paying contributions into Gesy, the new national health insurance system, then you should find that your illness is covered under the state system if you are living on the south of the island. If you are in the north, you will need to take out private health insurance.If you are a private sector patient, then you should check with your provider as to whether your condition is covered. This may depend on the age of the policy and whether you have a pre-existing condition, should you be taking out a new policy.
Recently, Cyprus has introduced a new healthcare system following criticisms of the island’s healthcare from the WHO, among other global health watchdogs. One of the main aims of the new system is to meet the needs of both chronically ill patients and those suffering from serious or rare diseases. Gesy’s goal is to strengthen the quality of primary care, implement better preventive and screening programs, and provide patients with an upgraded quality of service.
How does the Cypriot healthcare system work?
As an expat, you will need to register first with the Ministry for the Interior, to set your residency in motion, and then sign up for state medical insurance, whereupon you will receive a card. The Ministry will put you into one of three sections:
• those who are entitled to free healthcare
• those who will need to pay a small fee
• those who will need to pay the full cost of treatment
This categorization depends on your income, any pre-existing conditions, and whether or not you have children.
If you are working for a company based in Cyprus, your employer should sort out your insurance for you, but make sure that they have done so.
Under these new regulations, in order to be eligible for healthcare, those in employment/self-employment and retirees will have to pay a compulsory contribution into the system. This was due to start in March 2019, and the percentage will rise again in 2020, when it is hoped that the system will be fully operational.
The Cypriot healthcare system and chronic illnesses
If you are eligible for the national scheme and you have a chronic illness, you will be covered for:
• basic medical care
• specialist care
• laboratory work
• maternity care
• some prescriptions
There is a cap on prescription medication, which cannot exceed a maximum amount of €150 (or €75 for some beneficiary categories) per beneficiary and per annum: this is so that people who need healthcare services more often, for example those with chronic conditions, do not face steep prescription charges. If you have a chronic condition, your GP will be able to issue repetitive prescriptions valid for six months, so that you can visit the pharmacy to repeat your prescription without a further appointment with your GP.
The establishment of Gesy has not been without teething problems: for instance, a proposed age-related cap on visits to your GP and a co-payment charge (of €15 – 20) if you exceed that amount within one year. Below this cap, access to GPs and inpatient services will be free at the point of delivery. However, the Cypriot health authorities have repeatedly said that if you suffer from a chronic illness and need to make a lot of visits to your doctor or clinic, you will be exempt from these charges.
you should not be charged
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.
If you are suffering from cancer or a severe blood disorder, you may need to be sent for treatment to Germany or Israel. If this happens your costs will be covered by your insurance.
Applying for disability/sickness benefit
The Cypriot government website has a list of disability benefits and allowances for which residents who are registered under Gesy can apply. You may also be able to apply for home care allowances, as well as respite, institutional and day care, depending on your level of disability.
You should also check with the health and social security departments in your home country to see if you are covered by disability legislation or are entitled to any allowances from your own government.
Private cover for chronic illness
If you have private health insurance, check with your provider to see if you are covered for treatment for your chronic illness within the private sector. Some policies may not cover pre-existing conditions.
There are a number of private providers on the island who treat chronic conditions, including several who offer alternative as well as conventional treatments and who also run diagnostic programs. Some resorts also offer week-long packages for chronic conditions such as arthritis.
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