Your guide to health insurance in Bulgaria
On the western coast of the Black Sea lies the country of Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria. Bulgaria is getting more popular among expats thanks to its low costs of living and proximity to the rest of Europe.
Those moving or traveling to Bulgaria will undoubtedly have many questions regarding how the local healthcare system works, the development of healthcare, and whether private health insurance is necessary. The short guide below provides useful information about healthcare and insurance in Bulgaria, as well as health insurance options for expats living there. Read on to learn more, or click the button below to obtain a no-obligation, free quote.
Healthcare system in Bulgaria
Although Bulgaria is renowned for its well-trained medical professionals, the overall medical standard of the country suffers from the lack of infrastructure and funding.
The Bulgarian health system is mainly controlled by the Ministry of Health, responsible for the progress, execution and supervision of the National Health Service and policy, while the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) controls and manages the medical insurance system. NHIF carries out its administrative duties through 28 territorial divisions, known as regional Health Insurance Funds. As in many other countries, bigger cities and towns usually offer more access to clinics, doctors, medical supplies, and hospitals when compared to restricted rural areas.
While Bulgaria’s public sector does have over 1,600 medical facilities, 322 of which are hospitals, with many practitioners drawn to the more lucrative opportunities in the private sector. Most hospitals suffer from poor facilities, understaffing and a simple lack of funding.
Bulgaria has over 60 private facilities, mainly situated within bigger cities and towns, such as Sofia. Private hospitals contain better facilities, equipment and more access to medical supplies. Both private and public health facilities have had issues with hygiene.
What should expats do before travelling to Bulgaria?
Can I use the EHIC in Bulgaria?
If you’re an EU citizen or EEA resident, you are entitled to free medical services at public hospitals in Bulgaria, provided that you will only stay in the country for less than 90 days. Although the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does grant the holder emergency medical treatment that is necessary on the same terms as Bulgarian nationals, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent medical care are not covered. There are also some private hospitals that do not accept the EHIC. In other words, the EHIC does not act as a sufficient substitute for proper international medical and travel insurance coverage.
Hence, traveler insurance that covers medical costs is essential for expatriates and tourists staying within Bulgaria for a short period of time. It is also one of the entry requirements imposed by the government.
Moreover, in Bulgaria it is compulsory for all people working on labor contracts to make contributions towards the National Health Insurance Fund (a very minimal base rate cost of around 18 leva a month, the equivalent of about EUR 9) in order to the public healthcare system.
While private healthcare is another feasible option, with far more advanced and well-equipped than its public sector equivalent, it often comes with higher medical costs. Thus, expatriates looking to work in Bulgaria should obtain an international health insurance plan to ensure that they can receive quality medical treatment from the nearest healthcare facility, which might not be within Bulgaria.
What about the emergency services in Bulgaria?
Bulgaria is currently implementing new policies to modernise its emergency services and hospital facilities. State-run hospitals normally have dedicated emergency wards, while in the capital city of Sofia, the University Hospital Tsaritsa Yoanna and University Hospital St Anna both operate dedicated emergency wings.
Nevertheless, the emergency response times in Bulgaria are still improving, and expats with potential language barriers and difficulty with the Cyrillic alphabet might find it hard to communicate during emergencies.
Pacific Prime Insurances is an international health insurance brokerage, and offers professional advice and free plan comparisons to our clients. No matter what your budget is or what your requirements are, our professional consultants can match you with a policy that best fits you or your group. Our policies can cover a wide range of services including dental, maternity, specialist consultation, transportation, inpatient services, and many more aspects. Please contact us today for a free medical insurance consultation.