Health Insurance in Turkey
Whether you’re simply visiting Turkey for a few days or planning to move there long-term, you’ll probably want to know the nuts and bolts of the Turkish healthcare system. This is crucial information to have when deciding whether you need to secure a private health insurance plan. This guide provides an overview of health insurance in Turkey, giving you key facts about the country’s healthcare system, and some travel tips to ponder over. Read on to learn more, or click below for a no-obligation quote.
The Republic of Turkey is a parliamentary democracy, bordered by Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The Eurasian country of 83 million is home to mainly Turks, but also a large minority group of Kurds. Its commercial city is Istanbul, while the capital city is Ankara. Turkey used to be a contender for European Union (EU) membership, but talks have since stalled and have not been fruitful. When you think of the country, you probably think of Turkish delights/coffee, baklava, or iskender kebab. It also has stunning architecture that attracts millions of visitors each year. Turkey has a universal healthcare system, known for its quality and accessibility.
Healthcare system in Turkey
Turkey’s healthcare system is highly complex, with many different plans and departments involved. All healthcare and social welfare activities are coordinated by the Ministry of Health, who operates public hospitals and supervises private hospitals. For Turkey’s universal healthcare system, residents who are registered with social security receive subsidized public healthcare. On the other hand, private healthcare is paid for by health insurance premiums or out-of-pocket payments. Most of the private hospitals in the country are located in major cities and towns. In addition to the main public and private sectors, universities and the Ministry of Defense also establish and operate hospitals in the country.
Public healthcare system
There are major organizations that run the social security system in Turkey, stipulating that both employers and employees have to contribute insurance premiums. Tourists are generally unable to access the public healthcare system, while residents can only access the system if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
Social Security System
Social Insurance Institution (SGK): Designed for private sector and blue-collar public sector workers, SGK allows users to access SGK hospitals. Sometimes, the Ministry of Health does special contracts with university and private hospitals for SGK members to use. There can be co-payment on medical drugs for outpatients.
- Social Security Institution for the self-employed (Bag-Kur): Bag-Kur members select payment contribution levels between 1-24, with lower levels coming with higher limits. Bag-Kur does not have its own facilities but has contracts with other public providers such as SGK hospitals. Payment will need to be made upfront before reimbursement can be provided. It operates on a co-payment system.
- Pension fund for civil servants (Emekli Sandigi): As a government employee retirement fund for retired civil servants, there is no health insurance premium collected and it is entirely accounted for in the government budget. It is based on a co-payment system and provides retired civil servants with a whole host of benefits.
- Green Card system (Yesil Kart): For those earning below a certain threshold, as defined by the government, there is a special card that gives them access to outpatient and inpatient care for free at some public and university hospitals. However, outpatient medications are not included in the cost. The Ministry of Health is the only body that is authorized to issue Green Cards.
Private healthcare system
There is a large network of private hospitals and clinics in Turkey that offers relatively affordable care of high standards. In fact, the country is even starting to become a medical tourism hub. It is especially known for cosmetic surgeries, as well as dentistry and fertility treatments. Making an appointment with a doctor is not difficult and many of the medical practitioners speak English.
Many expats who have access to the public healthcare system still choose to supplement this with a private health insurance plan. This is so that long queues can be skipped, which is often very prevalent at public hospitals. Options exist for both local Turkish and international health insurance plans, with the former being significantly cheaper but with more constraints.
Expats who have been legally residing in Turkey for more than a year and made social security contributions by registering with their local SGK office can access the public healthcare system. Regulations vary depending on your nationality, so check with your employer or the local Turkish embassy beforehand. When it comes to the private healthcare sector, expats can access it if they have a private health insurance plan, or are willing to pay for it out of pocket.
Some top hospitals in Turkey are:
- Gaziosmanpasa Hospital of Yeniyuzyil University in Istanbul
- Medical Park Gebze Hospital in Gebze
- Memorial Antalya Hospital in Antalya
- Medicana International Ankara Hospital in Ankara
Pharmacies are dotted all over Turkey. In fact, major cities like Istanbul and Ankara may also have many pharmacies that are open 24 hours. However, in general, the opening hours may vary. Pharmacists are also able to diagnose illnesses, dispense over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, and recommend a doctor if needed. Compared to many western countries, the regulation surrounding the purchasing of medication can be a bit lax.
The emergency services in Turkey can be accessed by dialing 112. The operator will then connect you to the specific service you require. There may be language barriers if you do not speak any Turkish, as a lot of operators are not fluent in English. If you require an ambulance, you will have the option of going for one provided by a public or private institution. Private ambulances tend to arrive quicker and are better equipped.
Turkey travel advice
There are a number of things that visitors to Turkey have to bear in mind regarding general tips and health hazards.
General tips: As Turkey is not an EU country, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid. All travelers are advised to take out a travel insurance plan. When in touristy areas, it is also recommended to take all the usual precautions like keeping an eye on your belongings.
ID requirement: While in Turkey you must also carry a form of photo identification on your person at all times. Failure to provide identification on request can lead to a fine or jail time. It is advisable that you make a copy of your passport and keep it on your person.
Health hazards: Tap water is not safe to drink in Turkey, so opt for boiled or bottled water. Check with your country’s health department on the vaccinations needed for Turkey. In general, a rabies shot is recommended as Turkey has some of the highest rabies cases in Europe.
Cultural sensitivity: Turkey is largely a Muslim-majority country. Visitors to the country are advised to maintain cultural sensitivity when interacting with locals and ensure that offense is not caused.
Other rules: Do not insult the Turkish nation or flag as this is an offence. It is also illegal to deface the Turkish currency, use a metal detector, remove/export ‘cultural treasures’ and antiquities without a license, or take photographs of military installations without permission.
Please note that the information on this page is not fully comprehensive and is subject to change without prior warning. It is advisable to consult with the local Turkish embassy should you have any doubts before you depart on your journey.
Private health insurance for expats in Turkey
For those of you who do not have access to public healthcare in Turkey or if you would like to access private healthcare, taking out a health insurance plan is a smart move. Even though healthcare costs in Turkey are typically lower than its western counterparts, a good health insurance plan can still save you some money in the long run.
Here at Pacific Prime, we provide expat health insurance plans to foreign nationals in Turkey. In many cases, we also offer Turkey health insurance policies with no deductible or excesses. In addition to this, we can help you secure extra benefits, such as coverage for outpatient treatment, dental, vision, maternity, and much more.
Some of our plans are also globally portable and renewable for life. It does not matter if you develop a pre-existing condition, make a lot of claims, or even leave Turkey for another country. You can still have peace of mind knowing that whatever happens, you will be covered. To explore your options, contact us today for a free quote and insurance consultation!