Some expats in Turkey are furious that the country’s new compulsory healthcare insurance scheme has suddenly been introduced despite an announcement that it was being cancelled.
There is confusion because authorities have not kept foreign people living in the country informed. Even the British Embassy admitted that it had been told the scheme would not be going ahead.
An announcement about the scheme, which requires all foreign nationals to register once they have lived in the country for a year, was made in 2010. It was supposed to be introduced at the end of this year and then it was being cancelled.
The Turkish authorities have now announced that the scheme became effective on the first of January but expats say that different regional offices are confused. They are being told that they must register by the end of this month or face a fine.
‘We are aware of the confusion and concern in the community over the new healthcare requirements for certain foreign nationals that the Turkish authorities have just announced; and over the additional confusion caused by the way in which regional offices are apparently applying the new policy inconsistently,’ said a spokesman for the British Embassy.
‘We were not officially notified by the Turkish authorities that the scheme was being reintroduced this year and that it would be compulsory for all long term residents. In the document passed to us, it appears that once a non-Turkish resident completes one year of residence in Turkey, they must apply to join the scheme,’ he explained.
‘It applies to all nationalities not covered by the health scheme of their own country. British nationals, for example, who have lived in Turkey for one year will receive a letter about joining the scheme and then have one month to register. We are in touch with the Turkish authorities, including through the Ambassador, to register our concern; to discuss the implications of this measure if it is implemented as announced; and to protect the interests of our community,’ he added.
Older people living in the country and those with private health insurance have the most concerns. Those with private insurance believe they are being asked to pay twice and older people are worried about the cost.
A statement from the Turkish authorities has added to the confusion. It says those who have been resident for over a year and delay joining the Turkish system beyond the deadline of 31 January 2012 can choose to join later. But they would have to make a backdated payment to cover the period from 31 January if they had been resident in Turkey for a year at that date, and pay a fine.