Your guide to health insurance in Bosnia
Thinking of moving to beautiful Bosnia? You should get to know their healthcare system before embarking on your adventure! Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as BiH, or Bosnia for short, is located in Southern Europe. Despite its war-torn past, it has a thriving cultural scene and an interesting mix of old and new architecture. Here, we will give you a brief overview of the healthcare system in Bosnia and what your insurance options are.
The Balkan War of the 1990s left a heavy impact on Bosnia, which is reflected in their healthcare system. Much of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed during the war, and its citizens are still dealing with spillover health issues today.
Public healthcare system
The state healthcare system in Bosnia is highly decentralized. Together with 10 health departments, the Ministry of Health is responsible for the primary and secondary healthcare of the country. It is also responsible for coordinating departmental healthcare administrations at the federation level. All Bosnia residents contribute to the mandatory healthcare insurance fund.
Here is a list of the medical facilities available in the public sector:
- Health centers provide primary care, such as general practice, maternity care, and dental care.
- Health stations (aka. Ambulantas) are outpatient clinics staffed with both general physicians and specialists. They are sometimes attached to a health centre. They are also available in private practice.
You can find four types of hospitals in Bosnia:
- Clinical centers
- General acute hospitals
- Specialized hospitals
- Small district hospitals
It’s important to note that upfront payment for treatments is required for all hospitals in Bosnia. This is regardless of whether you have a health insurance plan. In case of a medical emergency, please contact your insurer immediately.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Bosnia is still receiving medical aid from international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These NGOs play a huge part in improving the public health of Bosnians. They administer primary, secondary, and tertiary care including counselling services.
Unfortunately, there is almost no communication between both local and international healthcare service providers. They operate in parallel, but never with each other. As a result, little collaboration and medical knowledge are shared between the two.
Private healthcare system
Private hospitals are few and far in between. However, they do fare better in terms of their quality of care, as well as waiting time. Since the majority of medical facilities - both public and private - are located in the capital city of Sarajevo, this makes it absolutely imperative that you live there. Healthcare service providers can be hard to find in rural Bosnia, which makes it inconvenient when you’re seriously ill and looking for a specialist. Furthermore, healthcare outside Sarajevo is typically inadequate.
We recommend getting an insurance plan which covers repatriation costs. This way, you could get the best medical treatment without having to worry if the country you’re staying in has a comprehensive healthcare system.
You’ll find that drugs in Bosnia are expensive and the prices can vary greatly from one store to another. Try searching in retail pharmacies for lower-priced medications. There are two types of pharmacies in Bosnia: state-run and private. Medications on the reimbursable essential drugs list are reimbursed by the state pharmacies. Private pharmacies, on the other hand, do not receive reimbursement from the state fund.
Major healthcare issues
This is a list of some of the main healthcare issues you might run into during your stay in Bosnia.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
A staggering 18-38% of residents suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Balkan war. In fact, it is the major cause of death after the war. Here, citizens grapple with PTSD-related alcoholism and drug addiction. Their treatment is done primarily through NGOs who will eventually leave Bosnia. Some NGOs do attempt to train Bosnian GPs in providing psychological help to their patients. However, the public healthcare system here remains inadequate in dealing with psychological disorders like PTSD.
Shortage of Physicians
You will find that the waiting time at public hospitals can be long. There is simply not enough infrastructure and physicians in the country. So, be sure to factor that in when you pay your doctor a visit.
Many good doctors have also left Bosnia during the war. Doctors here tend to be very underpaid with little room for career advancement. As a result, those who stay behind in the country are lacking in skills and not well-trained.
Underfunded healthcare system
Instead of focusing on medical treatments, the decentralized healthcare system spends a large portion of its health budget on the administration of the system. Also, there is no information technology system set up to link together the health insurance institutions, the public health institutions, and healthcare facilities. Thus, it can be difficult to collect insurance fund contributions within this system.
The major shortcomings include the lack of communication between healthcare centers, lack of skills, and the lack of standards that are uniformed throughout the country
In this section, we discuss the two insurance options available for expats in Bosnia.
Mandatory healthcare insurance
The Federal Health Insurance Fund controls and supervises the mandatory insurance funds. The government is the main contributor who contributes about 54% to the insurance fund. This goes toward supporting the unemployed, pensioners and other vulnerable groups here. Other contributors include 30% from employers and employees, and 16% from the taxation on incomes of farmers. Extra funding is received from patients as part of the costs of their medical treatments and for their medications.
Private health insurance
Whether you are eligible for Bosnia’s mandatory health insurance or simply prefer an alternative, you should secure an international private health insurance plan. The healthcare system in Bosnia is nowhere near comprehensive. This is especially the case if you live outside of Sarajevo.
We recommend an insurance plan that covers your repatriation costs. If you are injured, you would want to receive the best care for your condition outside of the country. Sometimes, the cost to transfer you back home can be incredibly steep!
Pacific Prime has over two decades of experience as brokers in the insurance industry. We are committed to finding the perfect health insurance plan to suit your budget and needs. Most importantly, our highly-trained experts provide free quotations, leverage our close partnerships with all major insurers, and have an extensive portfolio that consists of all the best plans. Contact us today so we can help!