Retired expats in Turkey will no longer have to take out compulsory health insurance in order to qualify for a residency permit, it has been confirmed.
In a complete U-turn, the General Directorate for Migration Management (GDMM) has announced that plans for compulsory health insurance for foreigners aged over 65 have been abandoned.
The move comes as a result of heavy pressure from the country’s expat communities as well as from European politicians and diplomats. Among those involved was the British Consul in Istanbul, which argued that the plan was unfair, causing stress and problems for elderly expats due to the cost.
The new policy was introduced three months ago and immediately caused consternation. Under that policy, the GDMM introduced significant changes for foreigners seeking residency in Turkey or renewing their residency permits which included people being required to either purchase private health cover, or join SGK, the state insurance programme.
The high cost of health insurance policies in Turkey is known for deterring some foreigners from applying for residency. Older expats were hit especially hard, with reports of annual quotes as high as 5000 lira, around £1,400. Those over 65 found it difficult to get any private insurance at all.
‘Over 65s were struggling to find private insurance providers who would cover them. We brought this issue to the attention of the GDMM and the relaxation of this requirement is a welcome development for older people wishing to renew or take out residency in Turkey,’ said Timothy Fisher, the British Consul in Istanbul.
Expats over 65 can now choose whether to buy health insurance within Turkey or continue to pay for health care using their own means.
But the rule reversal has left significant problems in its wake. First of all, those who have paid for expensive insurance policies are now stuck with them. Additionally, those who signed up for the State health provider now cannot leave it. Some people have been told that the only way to do so is to leave the country permanently.
Membership in SGK requires a medical assessment and costs 272 lira, or around £75, monthly, for a person in their 60s. Due to the cost, some pensioners want to cancel it.
According to the official GDMM website, insurance for Turkish residency applications must offer unlimited inpatient cover and at least 2000 liras worth of outpatient cover.