Health insurance in Estonia
Located in the Baltic region of Northern Europe, the Republic of Estonia is a state bordered by Russia to the east and Latvia to the south, covering an area of approximately 45,215 km² with a temperate seasonal climate. Despite its small size, Estonia offers an impressive variety of environments and tourism opportunities and has maintained a distinctive language and culture.
Whether you are planning on visiting or are living in Estonia, getting the right health insurance policy can help cover medical costs while you’re there. Pacific Prime can help you find the ideal plan for your needs and budget. Click below to get a free quote or continue reading to find out more about health insurance in Estonia.
Overview of healthcare in Estonia
The Estonian healthcare system incorporates a compulsory insurance system and universal access to medical services that are made available through private health providers. The Ministry of Social Affairs oversees the administration of the system with numerous agencies, public independent bodies, private health care units, hospitals, NGOs, and professional associations all coordinating beneath them. Local governments have a minor, voluntary role in organizing and financing medical services. Estonia’s integrated system has received international commendation for its ability to act efficiently on healthcare reform, but considerable challenges still persist regarding accessibility and quality of healthcare.
Estonian public healthcare
The Estonian healthcare system is primarily public-funded through mandatory health insurance contributions made through an earmarked social payroll tax, which accounts for almost two-thirds of all healthcare expenditure in the country. This earmarked payroll tax is then pooled by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF), an independent public body that acts as the sole purchaser of medical care.
The EHIF operates through four regional branches, each covering two to six counties, and is responsible for collecting funds, contracting service providers, providing reimbursement for health services, pharmaceuticals and other temporary benefit programs. The health insurance system is mandatory, covering about 95% of the population. Contributions are proportional to employment and salaries, but non-contributing dependents (children and the elderly) represent almost half of the insured people, a considerable financial burden moving forward. The Ministry of Social affairs covers emergency care for uninsured persons and ambulance services.
To receive health insurance from the EHIF, taxes must be paid in Estonia and an Estonian ID number is required. Foreign nationals should receive an ID number together with a residence permit for employment. An Estonia-based employer will forward the information concerning your employment status to the EHIF.
Estonian private healthcare
If you are not covered by EHIF or don’t have an existing health insurance policy, you can purchase a private health insurance plan. In actuality, many expats choose to pay for private health insurance even though they have contributed to the national health scheme, due to the language barrier in the public medical facilities.
Estonian healthcare facilities
Estonia has developed a medical facility infrastructure system built upon countrywide primary care, which is centered on family medicine with well-trained physicians and nurses. These family practitioners are usually the first point of contact within the health system and will refer individuals for further specialist treatment if additional consultation is required.
Specialized care is often provided in outpatient settings, and care involving advanced technology has been increasingly centralized in major hospitals. There are four central hospitals which provide secondary and tertiary care. Two of them are located in Tallinn: West Tallinn Central Hospital and East Tallinn Central Hospital. They offer specialist services mostly to the residents of Tallinn and Harju county. The area covered by the Pärnu Hospital is Pärnu county, and the service area of the Ida-Viru Central Hospital is Ida-Viru county. People living in south Estonia obtain specialist medical care at the central hospital level, in the Tartu University Hospital, which also provides regional hospital services to the residents of this region. You can access a list of medical services, including doctors, dentists and private clinics in English on www.1182.ee.
Estonia’s healthcare system faces similar problems to that of the rest of Western Europe. The continued evolution of hi-tech medical technology and pharmaceutical innovations, coupled with increasing expectations from the population for new treatments as well as an ageing population, put serious strains on the financial and human resources of the healthcare sector. There is a lack of physicians and qualified nurses in Estonia, which has affected the quality of service in the healthcare system and resulted in long waiting periods to see a local doctor and undertake non-emergency surgical and dental procedures.
Estonia’s quality of medical service is generally good, especially in Tallinn, and in other major cities such as Tartu and Pärnu. The country has highly-trained medical professionals, but some hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources, especially in rural areas. You may find that some hospital staff and nurses, including those who work in emergency rooms, speak only limited English.
Can European Union citizens use EHIC in Estonia?
Estonia is a member of the European Union and thus European citizens are entitled to receive medical treatments that become necessary in Estonia under reciprocal healthcare agreements, provided they hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, the EHIC only covers public healthcare so you should ensure that you’re treated by a state healthcare provider.
How to find the best private health insurance in Estonia
Despite the high-quality standard of healthcare in Estonia, comprehensive insurance is still advised for all other nationals. It is best to check with your country's health department to see if a reciprocal healthcare agreement is in place with Estonia. Comprehensive international medical insurance and comprehensive travel insurance is highly recommended, which should include cover for emergency evacuation and medical repatriation in case of an extreme medical circumstance.
Pacific Prime offers a wide range of healthcare plans and travel insurance policies, along with benefit package options including inpatient, outpatient, dental, maternity, and specialist consultations. Contact our team of expert advisors today to receive a free quote and enjoy the peace of mind that our health insurance plans offer.