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Simplifying Belgian healthcare for expats

The healthcare system in Belgium is said to be one of the best in Europe. However, if you are used to free healthcare or a different system back home, it can be confusing to start with. The important thing is to make sure you are covered as soon as possible, so make this a priority.

What to do straight away

To benefit from the healthcare system here, you have to join a health insurance fund (mutuelle/ziekenfonds). The majority of these funds are linked to the country’s political parties but they are accessible to everyone.  Some offer English language facilities, which might be helpful if your French and Dutch skills are not particularly strong. 

How does it work?

Contributions are withheld from your income if you are a salaried worker; the self-employed need to register with the social security fund of their choice. All funds charge the same amount, as they act as intermediaries between the National Institute for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance and its members. This state system provides basic healthcare reimbursements (50-75%) for hospital, doctor and chemist costs. Hospital and pharmacy expenses are deducted when you pay, doctors’ fees are usually paid in full and then the invoice sent to the insurance fund for reimbursement.

How long does it take?

When you register, there is a six-month waiting period before you can be reimbursed for any medical costs, although people who are entitled to benefits in another EU country are covered during this period. If you hold a European Health Insurance card, then this will also cover you on this temporary basis – so make sure you keep it with you at all times.

What does it cover?

The healthcare system covers benefits if you are not capable of working due to an accident, illness or childbirth. To qualify you need to inform your employer and deliver a certificate to your fund before the end of the employer-paid period of sick pay. If you’ve been off work for more than a year, this is termed invalidity and the benefits you receive in this case are tied to your family circumstances.

(image © Darko Stojanovic-2)

RB

Categories:   Health

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