If you have a holiday home and come to Bulgaria as a visitor (i.e. for less than 90 days at a time and less than 183 days in any year), you should check whether you qualify for free or subsidised health treatment in Bulgaria as part of a reciprocal health agreement between your home country and Bulgaria (see below). If you don’t, you must choose between a private international health insurance policy and holiday/travel insurance.
Reciprocal Health Agreements
Citizens of the UK are entitled to free medical, dental and hospital treatment in Bulgaria, under a reciprocal healthcare agreement between the two countries. To access healthcare, you will need a UK passport and NHS card. UK citizens must pay for medicines, however.
Most other countries don’t have reciprocal health agreements, so if you aren’t covered by Bulgarian social security you must have private health insurance or a holiday/travel policy that covers you in Bulgaria.
Since Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, EU-citizens with health insurance in their home countries are entitled to reduced cost or free medical treatments covered by the Bulgarian social insurance (i.e. state-provided medical treatment only) on production of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – provided, their stay in the country is temporary (usually this refers to a period of up to 90 days).
However, take into consideration that the healthcare sector in Bulgaria is severely limited; therefore it’s advisable that visitors to Bulgaria have private medical insurance.
If you plan to take up residence in Bulgaria and will be contributing to Bulgarian social security (called ‘NOI’) – e.g. if you will be working in Bulgaria – you and your family will be entitled to free or subsidised medical and dental treatment from the Bulgarian state system.
Once you have a residence permit you will pay contributions through the NOI to the Bulgarian state health system, currently around 15 lev per month. This entitles you to free treatment from a GP, free referrals to a specialist, and medicines at reduced prices or free.
It’s recommended that you take out private health insurance while in Bulgaria, even if you’re a resident, as the standard of private health care tends to be much higher than that of the state system. You should also check your entitlements under the Bulgarian state health scheme and when such cover might become effective.
Residents who don’t contribute to social security (e.g. retirees) and aren’t covered by a reciprocal agreement should take out a private international health insurance policy.
If you’re planning to take up residence in Bulgaria, you should ensure that you and your family have full health insurance during the interval between leaving your last country of residence and obtaining health insurance in Bulgaria.
One way to insure yourself for this interim period is to take out a holiday/travel insurance policy. If you already have private health insurance, it’s better to extend your present health insurance policy to provide international cover (which is usually possible) than to take out a new policy. This is particularly important if you have an existing health problem that won’t be covered by a new policy.
This article is an extract from Buying a Home in Bulgaria.
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