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Expats can be reassured that the healthcare system in Belgium is one of the most reputable and reliable in Europe. Medical facilities and practitioners in Belgium adhere to high standards of care and hygiene.
Pharmacies are widely available, and emergency services are reliable. The healthcare system in Belgium is divided between hospitals that are either public or non-profit and private clinics.
Public healthcare in Belgium
The Belgian healthcare system is funded to some extent by the government, which provides funds to mutual health organisations. All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium have to contribute towards the state Belgian health insurance fund.
Anyone who qualifies for public healthcare can consult any doctor of their choosing. Fortunately for expats, most doctors will be proficient in English.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can use their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Private healthcare in Belgium
Expats who qualify for non-resident tax status may not be required to contribute to the national social security system, in which case their employer's private healthcare plan will likely cover them.
Patients using private healthcare in Belgium typically pay the doctor for healthcare services received and later submit a claim to their insurance provider for reimbursement. The extent of coverage for these claims can vary, but often a significant portion of the costs are covered. Some dentists may not accept state insurance, making it advisable for expats to consider comprehensive dental insurance coverage.
Health insurance in Belgium
All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium are required to join the state health insurance scheme or provide proof of private medical insurance. The state insurance scheme typically covers a significant portion of medical costs, which may vary depending on the specific services and circumstances, but doesn't exceed 75 percent. It covers dependent spouses and children, usually up to 18 years of age or sometimes older if they are still in full-time education or have certain disabilities.
Many residents also have private health insurance to cover any remaining costs, particularly if they have an existing medical condition. This supplementary health insurance is frequently included in expats' employee benefits package.
Expats who don't contribute to the national social security system should check whether their employer will provide private health insurance. If not, it's essential to take out a policy independently to cover the often exorbitant costs associated with private treatment.
Pharmacies and medicines in Belgium
Pharmacies in Belgium are readily available and usually operate during regular working hours. Some pharmacies also operate 24 hours a day. A list of nearby pharmacies that are open after hours is frequently displayed in a closed pharmacy's window.
Most over-the-counter medicines are available at Belgian pharmacies. Medical prescriptions must be paid for upon collection. Expats should keep their receipts to claim costs from their medical aid. It's also advisable for expats to be aware of the generic names of any long-term medication, as brand names can vary in different countries.
Health hazards in Belgium
While Belgium is generally regarded as a safe country for expats, having few health hazards, it is important for individuals to remain aware of potential risks and take appropriate precautions. The climate in Belgium can be damp and rainy, leading to colds and flu, especially during the winter months.
Air pollution in urban areas such as Brussels can potentially cause respiratory issues for susceptible individuals. Expats with allergies should be aware of the pollen count, as it can be high during spring and summer months, which may trigger hay fever or asthma symptoms.
Additionally, ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease, may be present in wooded and grassy areas. It is advisable to use insect repellent and wear protective clothing when spending time outdoors in such environments.
Vaccinations for expats in Belgium
Before moving to Belgium, expats should ensure they are up-to-date with routine vaccinations. Although no specific vaccinations are required for entry into the country, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional to determine any additional vaccinations that may be appropriate based on individual circumstances. Some vaccinations to consider include:
- Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR): As these diseases are still prevalent in some parts of the world, it is essential to have up-to-date immunisations.
- Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap): A combined vaccine protecting against three bacterial infections.
- Influenza: An annual flu shot is recommended, especially for those with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems.
- Hepatitis A: Although the risk of contracting Hepatitis A in Belgium is low, the vaccine can be considered for added protection, particularly for those who plan to travel to countries with a higher risk.
- Hepatitis B: This vaccine is recommended for those with an increased risk of exposure, such as healthcare workers or people with multiple sexual partners.
Before relocating to Belgium, expats should consult their healthcare provider or a travel health clinic to discuss their specific needs and receive tailored advice on vaccinations and other health precautions.
Emergency services in Belgium
Emergency services in Belgium are reliable, with largely rapid response times. Aside from the general European emergency number, 112, expats can also dial 100 for medical emergencies. Ambulances are not part of the national healthcare plan, but may be covered by private insurance for those who have it.
►For a list of hospitals in the capital, see Healthcare in Brussels
►For help with finding the perfect home, see Accommodation in Belgium
"From 1 to 10, I give healthcare a 10. It’s brilliant!" Read more about Louise's opinions on Brussels in her Expat Arrivals interview.
"One day, when my one-year-old was throwing up so frequently I could not even get her in the car to go to her appointment, I called the hospital to postpone it a bit and the receptionist suggested I ring my local doctor who would surely do a house call. A house call! What could be more fantastic than that?!" Read more of American expat Michelle's interview.
Are you an expat living in Belgium?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Belgium. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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