Greek healthcare is free at the point of service to all residents, regardless of how long you have been living in the country. For this reason, it might seem unnecessary to take out private health insurance: but in fact, you will almost certainly need to do so before you arrive.Although there is no lower limit on the amount of time you need to spend in the country before you can be considered a resident, the process of applying for residency is lengthy and complex. Even once you have gathered all the required information and taken it to your local town hall for processing, your application will still be under review for a minimum of one month before you receive your residency confirmation. You will need this confirmation in order to register with a doctor; and in order to apply for residency in the first place, you will need to show proof that you have private health insurance.
So how do you find the right insurance for you? And is there a way to keep costs low? The answers will depend on your personal circumstances, but we have put together a brief guide to some of the main ways people save money when taking out private medical cover in Greece.
Extending Your Existing Medical Cover
If you already have insurance in your home country, or even in some cases if you have travel insurance with a particular company, you might be able to extend this to cover your stay in Greece.
Especially if you are not planning to stay in Greece for a very long time — for example, if you are staying for less than a year — it might not even be worth registering with the national health service there, since it can take so long for applications to be processed. In this case, your travel insurance might be extendable to cover your full stay.
If your employer provides private insurance in your home country, and they are the ones sending you to Greece, then they should be able to include cover for Greece as an optional add-on. Depending on the deal you have with your employer — whether they pay the full cost as a benefit for employees, or whether there is a cost sharing arrangement — this might have an effect on your net pay, so be sure to talk to your HR department before you move.
If you are moving to Greece for work and you plan to stay longer than a year but move back to your home country or elsewhere before retirement, and you are under the age of fifty, then taking out a policy that cuts off your cover when you reach a certain age can save you money in the short term.
Some insurers will only cover people up to the age of 65 or 70, and these premiums will often be lower than those that offer lifetime care. Be sure to check the small print, though, and find out whether taking out this policy will have any potential effects on future cover you might want to obtain.
Think also about whether you will want to stay with the same insurer when you leave Greece: if you are in it for the long term, then this option will not save you money.
Choosing A ‘Both / And’ Approach
Many people approach healthcare like it is a binary choice: either you go private, or you opt to be treated only under the state system. In reality, for many people the most cost-effective way of setting up healthcare is to use a dual approach.
Health insurance inevitably comes with excesses: the amount you sign up to pay for yourself before the insurers will pay out. If you require a fairly basic level of care, for a general medical complaint, then the excess will almost certainly be too low for it to save you money. In this case, if you are an employed resident of Greece and therefore eligible to receive state healthcare, you might as well use the national health service to meet your needs.
Private care really comes into play when you need to see a specialist, or when you need complex and ongoing care in hospital. In these cases, your insurers will usually cover 100% of costs, although again it will depend on the premium you choose when you first sign up for cover.
Choosing Where To Live
All of the private clinics and hospitals in Greece are located either in Athens or in Thessaloniki. If you are moving elsewhere — to a rural location or to one of the islands, for example — then you will need to weigh up the quality of care you can expect to receive privately with the reality of having to travel to get it.
If you are being relocated to Greece for work then you might not have any choice about where you end up living, but if you can choose, then keep your medical costs in mind, too. Private health procedures in Athens cost much more than in Thessaloniki, so if you know you want to go for private treatment in Greece and you have a choice about where you will be moving to, then this is something to consider.
Removing Optional Extras
As with all medical insurance, make sure you look at the small print of the policy you are planning to take out. Many include optional extras as standard, but if you will not require these, then see if you can remove them to save money. Things like maternity cover, sports injury rehabilitation and medical evacuation back to your home country are all things you can usually opt to take off.
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