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In Greece, the standard of healthcare overall is acceptable, compared to other EU countries, although there is some variation between the large number of islands and the mainland. Greece operates a National Health System (ESY) which aims to ensure free and equitable access to quality health services for every citizen. Since the early 1990s investment in public sector health has expanded with greater emphasis placed on the efficiency of the system.
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.
The evolution of the private healthcare sector now accounts for more than half of healthcare expenditure. Today the healthcare system in Greece is a mixed one where the ESY, public insurance funds and the private sector are all involved in the funding and provision of healthcare services.
Healthcare in Greece is delivered by a mix of public and private health service providers, and the system is broadly divided into primary, secondary and tertiary tiers of service delivery.
Primary healthcare is provided through the National Health System (ESY). This includes rural health centres and rural health surgeries, as well as public hospital outpatient departments. Other public primary healthcare is provided through health centres operated by social insurance funds, local authorities and municipalities. Primary healthcare services are also extensively provided by the private sector. This includes physicians in private practice who are under contract with one or more insurance funds, other autonomous physicians in private practice as well as physicians who work in diagnostic centres, laboratories and private hospital outpatient departments.
Secondary and tertiary health care is provided by National Health System hospitals (ESY), other non-ESY public hospitals and private clinics. According to the type of services they offer, Greek hospitals are categorised as either general or specialised. General hospitals include multi-specialty departments across most disciplines of medicine. Specialised hospitals are referral centres usually for a single specialty.
The most complex and technologically sophisticated services are offered by hospitals linked to the country’s medical schools. 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. 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 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.
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.