Greece’s population in 2007 was estimated to be approximately 10 million, of which 7% were expatriates. Net migration rate runs at 2.34 migrants per 1000 population. The majority of these migrants come from South Eastern and Central Europe and the Middle East.
The population growth rate is very low at only 0.16%. Crude birth rate is 9.62 births per 1000. However, the death rate is at 10.33 deaths per 1000. Life expectancy is one of the highest among OECD countries at 76.85 years for males and 82.06 years for females. The fertility rate is 1.35 children per female.
Some recorded common diseases in Greece include traveller’s diarrhoea, cholera, E. coli diarrhoea, hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, insect born diseases, parasites, toxoplasmosis, Lyme disease, and brucellosis. HIV/AIDS is also prevalent with more than 9,000 recorded cases as of 2001. Also, because temperatures can reach as high as 40°C, heat-related problems are common; these include heat stroke, prickly heat, fungal infection, sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion.
Vaccinations are generally not required for travel to Greece but it may be beneficial if hepatitis A and B vaccines are obtained prior to travel. Booster doses for tetanus and diphtheria may also be helpful.
Greek healthcare at a glance
Many Greeks have been calling for reform to their country’s healthcare system. Despite this, it was ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the best in the world; with healthcare costs among the lowest of the European Union member countries.
The government’s GDP allocation to healthcare is also quite low. The availability of public hospitals is limited to certain areas, which tend to cluster in big cities. These may be some of the reasons why Greeks have a perception of low quality healthcare, despite the fact that hospitals in the metropolitan areas are of excellent standards.
Currently, there are moves from the government to upgrade the healthcare system, having obtained funding assistance from the European Union. Such improvements include the building of new facilities, developing mobile medical units, improving accident and emergency facilities and the installation of high-tech medical equipment.
The public health system in Greece provides free, or low cost, healthcare services to residents (and their families) contributing to the social security system. Other benefits include free laboratory services, maternity care, medical-related appliances or devices and transportation. Other European Union nationals can also avail of free healthcare benefits provided they have their E111 forms.
Specialists can be consulted directly, but public hospital residents usually have long waiting lists. In urgent situations (but not in emergency cases) the patient may opt to see a private specialist and later reimburse (up to a maximum of 85% of the fee) the Idrima Kinonikon Asfalisseon (IKA). IKA is a government body which operates Greece’s National Healthcare System. Because of the limited facilities of some hospitals, patients can be referred to other hospitals. In the case of non-urgent operations, waiting times can be lengthy.
Emergency care is provided free of charge in public hospitals to anyone, regardless of nationality. There are also smaller outpatient clinics in rural areas which are attached to bigger public hospitals. These facilities provide faster emergency treatment than the bigger public hospitals.
Dental and eye treatments are also free but non-essential medicines and health-related accessories such as dentures, dental crowns, and spectacles are charged at a substantial rate.
Medications are of good quality and the pharmacists are highly trained. Medicines are also highly subsidized with only 25% of the cost of the prescription being charged.
A policy universal to all EU member countries is the E106 form, or the European Health Card. The E106 can be accessed by the expatriate from his/her own country if he/she has paid two full years of social security contribution. The E106 card entitles the bearer to public health cover for a limited period of time.
Retirees from EU countries who are receiving their pension from their home country, and who intend to settle in Greece, are also entitled to state health benefits.
IKA in Greece
IKA is a public insurance company that oversees Greece’s social security. At present, IKA covers the healthcare benefits of more than 5.5 million workers and employees, and pension benefits for approximately .83 million retirees. Those that are insured by IKA may continue their coverage for the pension scheme, medical care, or TEAM, even after they finish in employment. However, certain conditions have to be met.
The person must: (a) not be currently employed and insured in IKA or any other fund for employees, (b) not belong to a disability group, (c) and/or have completed 500 days of insurance in the past five years before insurance with IKA has been stopped.
IKA covers medical exams done by IKA accredited health practitioners, health and laboratory examinations in IKA accredited laboratories, and other related expenses based on standard government rates.
Private health insurance
It is recommended that a person travelling to Greece should avail of full travel insurance or private health coverage if that person intends to stay any length of time.
Expatriates who are working in Greece and pay regular contributions to social security may be entitled to full or subsidised healthcare benefits. In such cases, private health insurance can cover the portion of the bill that cannot be covered by the government.