Healthcare in Belgium
Expats can take comfort in the fact that the system of healthcare in Belgium is one of the most reputable and reliable in Europe. Hospitals and doctors in Belgium provide high quality medical services, pharmacies are widely available and emergency services are reliable.
Doctors and hospitals in Belgium
Medical facilities in Belgium adhere to high standards of care and hygiene. The country has one of the highest numbers of hospitals and doctors per capita in Europe.
Unlike other countries with a definite split between public and private hospitals, the healthcare system in Belgium is divided between hospitals that are either public or non-profit, and private clinics which offer more general services.
The entire healthcare system is funded to some extent by the Belgian government, which provides funds to mutual health organisations.
Most doctors in Belgium offer private healthcare, and a fair amount work in both kinds of institutions. Patients usually pay a doctor for any healthcare provided and then claim from their insurance provider afterwards, which usually amounts to up to 75 percent of the costs. Most dentists do not accept state insurance, though some accept fractional payment from the state for dental care.
For this reason, many Belgians and expats supplement their state medical insurance scheme with a private healthcare policy to cover the difference.
Expats are free to consult with any doctor of their choosing, and can find doctors listed alphabetically in the telephone directory under the heading Doktors in de Geneeskunde or Docteurs en Médecin. Most doctors will have a good understanding of English.
Pharmacies and medicines in Belgium
Pharmacies are plentiful in Belgium and operate during regular working hours; there is a roster system in place for pharmacies to open after hours. A number of pharmacies also operate 24 hours a day. A list of nearby pharmacies that are open after hours is usually displayed in the pharmacy’s window.
Most over-the-counter medicines are available at pharmacies, and medical prescriptions must be paid for on collection; expats should keep the receipt in order to claim from their medical aid.
Health insurance in Belgium
All employees and self-employed people in Belgium have to contribute towards a Belgian health insurance fund as part of the normal social security enrolment process. There are, however, special private health insurance plans, which have been designed specifically for expats and are valid in a number of countries.
It is worth it for an expat to investigate whether they qualify for ‘non-resident’ tax status. If this is the case, they may not be required to contribute to national social security, in which case they will probably be covered by their employer’s healthcare plan.
Assuming they qualify, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is also a good idea as it entitles European citizens working in foreign countries to the same treatment at the same cost as a national of that country. However, a card cannot be used within Belgium unless it has been issued elsewhere in the European Union. Ambulances are not part of the national healthcare plan, but may be covered by private insurance for those who have it.
Emergency services in Belgium
Emergency services in Belgium are reliable, with generally rapid response times. Aside from the general European emergency number (112), expats can dial the following emergency numbers in Belgium:
Medical emergency and fire brigade – 100
Police – 101