Your guide to health insurance in Hungary
Thinking of moving to Hungary? Undoubtedly, you will have many questions about the healthcare system in Hungary. This guide gives an overview of how the public healthcare system works in Hungary, as well as whether private health insurance is necessary. It answers commonly asked questions, such as how expats can access the system and outlines the key Hungarian health insurance options available.
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Healthcare for expats living and working in Hungary
As a country renowned for their medical tourism, Hungary provides extensive healthcare services at affordable prices. However, public hospitals are often plagued by long waiting times, and their staff tend to be overburdened but underpaid. With compulsory statutory health insurance, all residents and most expats in Hungary are able to enjoy a plethora of free medical services.
The Hungary healthcare system
Key medical services covered by statutory health insurance in Hungary include:
- Dental treatment is free for citizens up to the age of 18, students, seniors (60+), and pregnant women. However, individuals do have to pay for the technical costs associated with dental treatment.
- Early detection and preventive testing. You or your physician may request early screening tests. It’s important to note that these tests are only covered in the HIF for specific individuals or individuals of a certain age group, particularly if it is a public health issue. Most detective testing is voluntary with certain exceptions.
- Treatment at home. To reduce the burden of the public healthcare system, all medical professionals who have signed a contract with the National Institute of Health Fund Management (NEAK) are able to treat patients at their homes.
- Outpatient care (i.e. GP visits, medicine). All medicines prescribed by healthcare professionals are free of charge.
- Inpatient care. Patients are charged a daily flat-rate for specific treatments, such as the diagnostic exams related to your illness, care in a convalescent home, etc. The HIF also covers a partial cost of all essential procedures.
- Medical appliances must be prescribed by a doctor to qualify for reimbursement.
Types of medical care in Hungary
Public and private hospitals, as well as specialists are all part of the Hungarian healthcare system. Here, we will take a look at the main aspects of medical care in Hungary.
Public hospitals in Hungary
Historically, the Hungarian healthcare system takes a page from Germany and France with their solid social insurance. Hungarian nationals enjoy universal healthcare for all hospital services and medically necessary treatment through their contributions (i.e. 3% of their total income) to the Health Insurance Funds (HIF). Employers are also required to pay 15% of the employees’ gross salary on top of a lump sum tax as contribution to the HIF. Essentially, this joint effort makes free primary and secondary (i.e. specialist) level healthcare possible.
Public hospitals in Hungary offer a high standard of care that is comparable to most Western countries, and a wide range of services and surgeries. One thing to note here is that all treatments prescribed by physicians and considered as essential are covered by the HIF. Through referral, a general physician may assign patients to a specialist. However, the patient will need to cover the costs themselves if they were to switch hospitals from their designated specialist, or order additional medication outside of what is prescribed.
While comprehensive and free to all citizens, the Hungarian public healthcare system suffers from the same problem as many other low-cost healthcare systems. The waiting times are long. particularly for non-essential surgeries, and staff are frequently overworked. Shockingly, Hungarians doctors are the most underpaid of all physicians of all the OECD countries. As a result, many of the best doctors work at private hospitals. It is not unheard of to see doctors accept under-the-table cash payment in exchange for higher quality care.
Emergency services are free for all tourists, citizens, and expats alike in Hungary.
Private hospitals in Hungary
Communication between patient and doctor is paramount to a smooth healthcare experience. It can be a huge barrier to a patient receiving the care they need in Hungary. If you would prefer not to navigate through a different and complex healthcare system, bringing a very close friend or hiring someone for your doctor’s appointments could be an option. However, not everyone is comfortable with these options.Private hospitals are often staffed with English-speaking medical workers. In addition, they tend to attract the best doctors and possess state-of-the-art equipment.
With universal healthcare as exhaustive as the one in Hungary, it is no wonder that wait times at public facilities can be excruciatingly long. With an international private insurance plan, expats are able to enjoy drastically shorter wait times at private clinics and hospitals.
One thing to note is that most facilities require proof of insurance before treatment, and - similar to the public healthcare system - require cash payments.
Hungary health insurance options
There are two types of insurance available for expats living in Hungary. Please note that statutory health insurance is mandatory for all persons working in the country. However, private health insurance will cover clinic visits and more in high quality private institutions. This section gives a brief comparison of these two options.
Statutory health insurance
All Hungarian nationals are covered under Hungary’s exceptional statutory health insurance - the Health Insurance Fund (HIF). Local and federal income taxes are automatically deducted from every employee’s salary, a percentage of which goes into funding the public healthcare system.
If you’re a European citizen, then you’re in luck! Its coverage also extends to citizens of the EU. Make sure you have your EUIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you at all times. Expats who are working at a Hungarian company or studying also qualify for the HIF. Once your work permit is in order, you can apply for a health insurance card or the Társadalomizosítási Azonosító Jet (TAJ) Card at your local health authority.
Besides employees, Hungary’s universal healthcare is free for all children under the age of 16, students, seniors over the age of 65, as well as pregnant women.
Private health insurance
If you prefer a more personalized healthcare system with shorter wait times, less bureaucracy and English-speaking staff, international private health insurance (IPMI) would be perfect for you. IPMI guarantees that you will have the best medical treatment available no matter where you are in the world. A private healthcare insurance plan is particularly essential if you are a non-EU citizen working in a company that isn’t Hungarian.
How to find the best private health insurance in Hungary
Choosing the right private health insurance plan can be a daunting task as there are numerous options available in Hungary. One of the best decisions you can make as an expat is to chat with our insurance experts at Pacific Prime.
We have decades of experience in the industry and are committed to finding the perfect insurance plan to suit your budget and needs. Most importantly, our highly-trained experts at Pacific Prime 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!