As an expat in Hungary, you should not experience too much difficulty in accessing your prescription medication. It is advisable to check first with your GP in your home nation whether your medication is legal in Hungary, as pharmaceutical regulations can vary from nation to nation.Once you arrive in Hungary and have registered with a medical practice, gaining your regular prescription should be relatively straightforward. Costs will depend on whether you are also registered with Hungary’s national health insurance system or have private insurance with a policy that covers your prescription charges.
How does the national health insurance system work?
If you are working and resident in Hungary, either your employer will register you with the state national health system (Országos Egészségpénztár Penztar/OEP) or, if self employed, you can register yourself with the National Tax and Customs Administration office.
Everyone in Hungary who has been making contributions into the social security system is entitled to a discount on some medications and prescription charges. There are some exemptions for people in vulnerable categories, such as pensioners and people on low incomes. As an expat retiree, you will be covered by state medical insurance as long as you are making contributions.
If you are a British national, however, there is currently a healthcare agreement with Hungary in place, which will also cover you for some of your prescription costs.
In order to register with a GP, you will need to make an appointment with your local practice and take along your health insurance card, which should be issued to you; your EHIC card if you are an EU national; or details of your private insurance policy, unless you are planning to pay out-of-pocket.
If you are registered under the national insurance scheme, however, you may not be able to choose which GP you sign up with and this can be problematic as not all Hungarian doctors speak English. This is more likely to be an issue in rural areas than cities, but it is one reason why expats may prefer to choose private cover. The British Embassy should be able to issue you with a list of English-speaking doctors.
You can initially bring medication into the country with you, but if it contains a narcotic substance – such as sleeping pills, medication for ADHD and strong painkillers – you will need to check first with the Ministry of Health and Welfare, as some substances are prohibited under the Opium Act. If your medicine or that of your child falls under the Opium Act, you will need a certificate, which needs to be either:
• a Schengen certificate, for travel within the Schengen area
• a medical certificate, for all other countries
You will not be able to present a prescription issued in your home nation to a Hungarian pharmacy.
You may want to consider asking your home GP for a medication passport (also known as the European Medical Passport), which will hold details of all the medicines you use or are allergic to. Note that this is not the same as the medical certificate mentioned above.
If you wish to apply for a European Medical Passport, it is recommended that you submit your application at least four weeks before you travel and always carry any medication into the country in its original packaging: this will avoid problems at airports while unattributed pills, for instance, are tested.
Will my prescriptions be covered under national insurance?
Under Hungary’s national health scheme (HIF), prescriptions are funded on a reimbursement scheme of 50%, 70%, 90%, and 100%, resulting in co-pay rates of 50%, 30%, 10%, and 0% respectively. You will therefore need to make some co-payments for some of your medication, and then claim back from the HIF.
For each unit, there is a fixed prescription fee of around €11 for drugs with 0% co-payment. Pharmaceuticals in hospitals have a rate of 100% reimbursement, so if you are hospitalized you will not have to pay for any of your medication. Your co-payments may also vary according to an official list for off-patent products. The lowest priced drug will be the reference drug in the case of any off-brand medicine which has a number of generic equivalents.
Pharmacists must offer the cheapest alternative generic product and must inform patients about any changes the first time they start using their medication. Pharmacies must also keep reference medication in stock.
Hungary has a large number of pharmacies (Gyógyszertár / Patika), signified by a green cross or the Asclepian symbol of a snake around a cross. You will also find over-the-counter medication freely available in drugstores, supermarkets and petrol stations, although pharmacies have the widest choice and are the only licensed providers of prescription medication.
If you have a private insurance policy that covers prescriptions, you should make sure that you check with the pharmacist or your Hungarian GP to see if they will accept you under your current policy. You can take out emergency cover with Hungarian providers – for example, if you lose or run out of prescription medication. This will cost in the region of:
• €30 for 5 medication prescriptions
• €60 for prescription and/or administration of controlled substances such as narcotics, sedatives, hypnotics/sleeping pills or psychostimulants
Some private providers can issue prescriptions for your regular medication (the amount necessary for your trip or a maximum of one month’s supply) in the event of emergency or loss, but you will need to see a private doctor first.
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