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Healthcare For Foreigners: Is Healthcare Free For Foreigners in Turkey?
Is healthcare for foreigners free in Turkey? That’s the question on many people’s minds, who are considering traveling to or living in Turkey. Healthcare services are at a forefront of any healthy and well-developed country, and Turkey is especially known to have improved its healthcare services over the past decades. Turkey has also diversified its medical facilities, and thus, transcended globally.
Turkey’s healthcare system includes both private and public health services, and there are approximately 28,000 medical institutes in the country. However, though the country has become a largely respected top destination for health tourism, healthcare for foreigners is not entirely free in Turkey. The country has some top-quality hospitals and medical facilities available, a few of them are even U.S. board-certified.
There are some key factors that you need to keep in mind if you are from other nations and have come for medical support in Turkey. Which are as follows:
- Research about the physicians and decide who will be the best option for you, and once you’ve done that, contact the doctor directly,
- Make sure to get everything in writing, such as; the advice, invite, recommendations, medicines, and the total price,
- Please use a language you are comfortable with to avoid miscommunication. Most medical personnel in Turkey (or hospitals) speaks English (or other languages) or they have qualified translators present at all times. There is no room for benefit of the doubt in medical issues.
But only the foreign citizens who are legally employed in Turkey or who have a Turkish spouse are eligible for publicly funded healthcare in Turkey, unfortunately, others are not. As a result, foreign individuals hired under service agreements that do not include international social security are considered insurance holders, and their employees are responsible for paying their social security and health insurance costs.
Most international citizens with a residence permit, who live permanently in Turkey and don’t hold relevant private health insurance, must make monthly payments into the Turkish state scheme. For most foreigners seeking healthcare, this helps them to get unlimited healthcare for approximately 270₺ a month. This covers you, your spouse, and children under 18 but not unmarried partners. The state scheme also provides dental care in some places.
Most of the hospitals offer certain accommodations or rooms by your needs. Some beds are adjustable, with internet connections, TV, safe boxes, nurse call buttons, and air conditioning in most rooms. You can also have a friend or family member with you as a companion, as they allow one guest to stay with the patient. There are other services like a translator, daily newspaper, etc., as well, according to your wishes.
The International Social Security Agreement – Healthcare For Foreigners
This agreement has been signed by Turkey, along with several countries. These bilateral agreements determine legislation applicable to foreigners employed in Turkey and implementations of equal treatment between foreign and national workers. This agreement says; “if an individual comes to Turkey for work purposes from any country, he or she will be covered under social security and Turkish healthcare benefits. Their social security will be protected by the state.”
Here is a list of the countries who signed the bilateral contract: Holland, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Libya, Norway, the Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Albania, Germany, Austria, and Turkish Republic of Cyprus, France, Quebec, Macedonia, Switzerland, and Georgia.
Alternatively, you can also register for local or international private health insurance services.
What happens in an emergency?
During an emergency, call 112. The ambulance service will assist you to the nearest hospital. You can be taken to a private hospital at first, considering you’re a foreign person. But if you let them know your preference, they’ll serve you accordingly.
You will immediately be received and seen in an emergency case, and there won’t be a fee for attending to an emergency in public hospitals. Whether or not you are a Turkish citizen won’t make a difference, you will be treated all the same.
For the foreign tourists, under Circular No. 2010/16 issued by the Prime Minister of Turkey, emergency health services for all individuals are free of charge. No insurance policy is needed for emergency treatment.
On the other hand, private hospitals in Turkey will charge you but those are significantly cheaper than in any other European country, even less than half the amount.
What about the Ex-pats who stay in Turkey? – Healthcare For Foreigners
Ex-pats who stay in Turkey for one or more years can apply to pay into SGK (Sosyal Guvenlik Kurumu). The monthly fee increases regularly, but they cover all the expenses of the entire family, making your healthcare in Turkey affordable and balanced.
Every town or village has a family health center which is like a local physician’s office. Generally known as; “Saglik Ocagi” or “Aile Sagligi Merkezi” in Turkish, these consultations don’t charge at all at these family health centers.
On the other hand, some polyclinics are competitively priced. These are often more prepared to treat foreign patients. The conversations there also happen in English or other languages. The state hospitals offer ambulance and walk-in emergency treatment for both tourists and residents alike but admissions are chargeable.
There are some holiday insurances for tourists in Turkey. The tourists may check if their holiday insurance will cover them and residents with SGK will need to check what discounted rates are offered for what treatment types.
The hospitals in Turkey have very high standards and with much lesser expense than the U.S. or the U.K.
Turkish residents above 18 years of age, who are registered with SGK, only pay 20% of the total price of the medication. However, ex-pats who are registered with SGK will find a new digital system that links doctor’s prescriptions with both residents’ and ex-pats’ Turkish ID numbers.
Pharmacies in Turkey
Turkish pharmacies are called; “Eczane” and they are very frequently seen on the streets. The pharmacists are well trained and licensed. For lesser serious health issues, they can help you find the right medicine. If they realize anything is serious and needs immediate attention, they would recommend you to go to the hospital.
So, we have talked in detail about Turkish healthcare for foreigners and their medical insurance policy. Undoubtedly, they are the cheapest in Europe and provide the best treatment. The only problem an international patient is probable to face is the language barrier. But as we have mentioned, there are translators and many English-speaking doctors and nurses available especially in private hospitals.
- Wikipedia contributors. (2021e, June 7). Health care in Turkey. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_in_Turkey
- Furat, O. F. (2011). The application of long-term pension provisions on bilateral agreements. SGK, PPT presentation in Zagreb, Croatia, February, 16.
- Cottgroup. (n.d.). Bilateral Social Security Agreements. Retrieved June 26, 2021, from https://www.cottgroup.com/en/legislation/bilateral-treaties/bilateral-social-security-agreements
- European Social Charter, ESC. (2015). 7th National Report on the implementation of European Social Charter. https://rm.coe.int/1680486196