While the overall standard of healthcare in Greece is generally high, the public sector is often undermined by issues such as corruption, lack of funding and mismanagement.
In an attempt to streamline the system and fight corruption, the Greek government has introduced universal social security numbers and electronic prescriptions and has also channelled resources to Greece's larger hospitals.
Private healthcare services are popular among those who can afford them, and expats with the means to do so are advised to take out a private medical insurance policy to cover costs.
Public healthcare in Greece
Public hospitals in Greece are still generally adequate and there are still professionals who do their best to deliver quality care. The biggest downside is long waiting periods in order to receive care.
While some hospitals in more remote locations on islands may provide a lower standard of healthcare, the best public hospitals – usually concentrated in the major cities – offer care of a high standard. It is often the case that expats who require more sophisticated care than island hospitals can provide will be transported to a hospital in Athens or Thessaloniki.
Most medical staff in Greece will speak some level of English, though this may differ based on their position and the location of the hospital.
Emergency care in Greece is free of charge regardless of one’s nationality. However, unless an expat is employed in the country, has a social security number (known as an AMKA) and pays for public health insurance, they will have to pay their own medical bills for most primary care visits.
Expats in the early stages of moving and who have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will also be provided with healthcare for a limited time. However, the cost of private care is not covered.
Private healthcare in Greece
Private healthcare in Greece is generally considered to be superior to the public alternative. Private medical facilities are often less affected by the country’s economic situation and have newer equipment. Expats who would prefer to go to a private hospital in Greece would do well to have a private healthcare policy since they will be responsible for the full cost of their treatment.
Moreover, doctors and nurses in private hospitals are more likely to speak English. Some Greek private hospitals even have affiliations with US hospitals or hospitals in other countries, and their staff will have had at least some form of overseas training.
Health insurance in Greece
All expats in the country on a working visa, who are looking for work or on pension in Greece, require an AMKA. This is overseen by a Greek governmental body known as IKA (Idrima Kinonikon Asfalisseon).
Furthermore, social health insurance is a compulsory contribution made by employers and employees. While some employers will try to skirt around their contributions, IKA takes this very seriously and, should this occur, the employee should contact their closest IKA office.
Medical care by IKA-approved practitioners is generally free, although patients are required to pay a fee for all prescribed medicines. Unfortunately, the cover is not as comprehensive as it used to be and it is common to take out a private health insurance policy as gap cover. Furthermore, social healthcare, as with other bureaucratic procedures in Greece, is a fairly complicated issue for outsiders and it is suggested that expats research this very carefully.
Pharmacies in Greece
Pharmacies in Greece are normally marked by a green cross. They are widely available, especially in larger cities, and are generally a reliable first line of defence against illness. Many Greek pharmacists will speak English and are capable diagnosticians who may save expats a trip to the doctor.
Expats who contribute to IKA generally receive a percentage off of the cost of prescription medication if an IKA-approved doctor provides them with a prescription that is then taken to a pharmacy.
Emergency services in Greece
Public ambulances are widely available in larger cities, but access may be restricted on some islands and rural areas. In these cases, private ambulances, helicopters and taxis may be legitimate alternatives depending on the situation.
General emergency: 112
►For more information on keeping safe and healthy in the country, see our Safety in Greece page
Are you an expat living in Greece?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Greece. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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