Health Care in Greece

by Jose Marc Castro on August 8, 2009

FACTSABOUTIntlHealthINSURANCEGreece is officially known as the Hellenic Republic. The Greek population in 2008 is estimated at about 11,262,000 residents. There are relatively few migrants comprising only 6.24% of the total population. The rest of the 94% are all Greeks. Net migration rate runs at only 2.34 immigrants per 1000 population. Most migrants come from South Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Population growth rate is very low at only 0.146%. Crude birth rate is 9.54 births per 1000 population. However, death rate is at 10.33 deaths per 1000 population. Life expectancy is one of the highest among OECD countries. Life expectancy is 78 years and 84 years for males and females respectively. Fertility rate is 1.35 children per woman.

Some of the recorded common diseases in Greece include traveler’s diarrhea, cholera, E. Coli diarrhea, hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, insect born diseases, parasites, toxoplasmosis, Lyme disease, and Brucellosis. HIV/AIDS is also prevalent with more than 9,000 cases recorded as of 2001. Also, having temperatures that reach as high as 40°C, heat-related problems are also common such as heat strokes, prickly heat, fungal infection, sunburns, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and excessive transpiration, among others.

Vaccinations are generally not required for travel to Greece but it would be safe if Hepatitis A and B vaccines are obtained prior to travel. Booster doses for tetanus and diphtheria might be helpful also.

Health Care  in Greece at a Glance

Many Greeks have been clamoring for reform in their country’s health care system. Still, it was ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the best health care system in the world. Health care cost is the lowest among the European Union member countries. The Greek Health Care System is a mixed system, with various social insurance funds coexisting with the National Health System.

The Greek government’s GDP allocation on health is also low. Availability of public hospitals is also very limited to certain areas, which also tend to cluster in big cities. These are probably some of the reasons why Greeks have a perception of low quality health care despite the fact that hospitals in the metropolitan areas are of excellent standards.

Currently, there are moves from the government to upgrade their health care system having obtained funding assistance from the European Union. Such improvements include building of new facilities, development of mobile medical units, improving accident and emergency facilities, and the installation of high-tech medical equipment.

Public health system in Greece provides free or low cost health care service to residents contributing to the social security system including their families. Other benefits include free laboratory services, maternity care, medical-related appliances or gadgets, and transportation. Other European Union nationals can also avail of the free health care benefits provided they have with them their E111 forms.

Specialists can be consulted directly, but public hospital residents usually have long waiting list. In urgent situations, but not an emergency case, the patient may opt to see a private specialist and reimburse up to a maximum of 85% of the fee later to Idrima Kinonikon Asfalisseon (IKA). IKA is a government body operating Greece’s National Health Care System.

Dental and eye treatment is also free but non-essential medicines and health-related accessories such as dentures, dental crowns, and spectacles are substantially charged. Oftentimes, with the limited facilities of some hospitals, they often refer certain cases to other hospitals. However, waitlist lines are also long for non-urgent operations.

Pharmacies and medications are of good quality with highly trained pharmacist. Medicines are also highly subsidized since only 25% of the actual cost of the prescriptions is charged.

Emergency care is provided free of charge in public hospitals to anyone regardless of nationality. There are also smaller outpatient clinic in rural areas attached to bigger public hospitals. These facilities provide faster emergency treatment than in bigger public hospitals.

One policy universal to all EU member countries is the use of the E106 or the European Health Card. The E106 can be accessed by the expatriate from their own country if he/she has paid two full years of social security contribution. The E106 card entitles the bearer to public health cover for a limited period of time.

Similarly, retirees from another EU country receiving their pension from his/her home country but would want to settle in Greece is also entitled to state health benefits.

IKA in Greece

IKA is a public insurance company that oversees Greece Social Security. At present IKA is covering health care benefits of more than 5.5 million workers and employees and pension benefits for about 0.83 million retirees. Those that are insured in IKA may continue their coverage for the pension scheme, medical care, or TEAM even after their termination from employment. However, certain conditions should be followed such as a) not currently employed and insured in IKA or another fund for employees, b) does not belong to a disability group, and/or c) should have completed five hundred (500) days of insurance in the past five (5) years before insurance with IKA has been stopped.

One of the main issues with IKA is captured in Greece Expat Forum last August 15,2009:

Firstly, your employer is obliged to pay the state insurance for you as an employee, however, it is not uncommon for employers to try to get out of the payments because it is quite expensive for them.

You won’t qualify for IKA or AMKA if you are not employed in Greece – here you have to pay in to get out. There are other insurance departments in Greece that cover self employed workers, bank workers, shop owners, etc such as TAXI, TEBE etc.

IKA covers medical exams done by IKA accredited health practitioners, health and laboratory examinations in IKA accredited laboratories, and other related expenses based on standard government rates.

Health Insurance in Greece

Private health system is of good quality but can be very expensive. It is necessary that a traveling person to Greece should avail of full travel insurance or private health coverage if that person intends to stay long in Greece.

Expatriates who are working in Greece and pay regular contribution to social security may be entitled to full or subsidized health care benefits. In such cases, private health insurance can cover the portion of the bill that cannot be covered by the government. This is echoed in Greece Expat Forum last May 6,2009:

if your working for a company they will take care of your basic health insurance. You will pay a certain amount depending on salary every month etc. Its a bit like the uk’s national insurance contributions There are 2 insurances one for employees and one for self employed people. You will be covered for everything. However, the public hospitals although they have the best doctors are a bit of a shock to some people

The type of health insurance that must be availed should be able to respond to the present and future needs of the insured, i.e. accident coverage, sports injuries, or severe illnesses. The amount of cover and the types of illness that can be covered should also be noted.

In general, insurance companies that require higher premiums offer more choices of medical practitioners and health facilities. Insurance policies that cancel their policies when the policy owner reaches retirement age or increase premium as age increases should be avoided. Policies of expatriates from their own country may be looked at if these can be extended during their stay in Greece. However, almost all hospitals that accept foreign insurance are those in Athens or Thessaloniki.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

mohamed November 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Dear /Sir
hi, my name is mohamed ihave been suffering from some health isswes by the date 5/6/2oo2 ihadacar accednt which couse me alot of problem been in acoma for 3days ihaving part of my body hearting ,the face and that iwas under atreatmeat but iwas not good enough to cover all my health problem and the docteres here said they did what the could,but now ilost my smilt iam just would be geatful if you could help me with any mean. thanks you for co.operation
mohamed ali fad elseed ahmed
khartoum sudan


mohamed November 13, 2009 at 6:07 pm

iam looking to treatment in greece


carl booth January 5, 2010 at 8:52 pm

i am a u.s. military member going to greece, and i am taking my romanian fiance with me. will she be covered under socialied medicine of greece? what kind of out of pocket expenses can i expect to encounter? thank you.


viki January 23, 2010 at 8:27 am

i dont have insurance,but i wana do some,i live in crete,please let me know if you have idea,thx


Ludo McGurk October 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I've had a really bad experience last week on Nissos Kalamos, Greece. I had an accident on a quayside whilst helping to tie up a yacht and needed urgent medical attention. A doctor came, did a good job on me and provided ongoing pharmaceuticals. He wanted €150 but when my wife Moira asked for a receipt for our insurance he demanded €200. We paid but he then said we had to get the receipt from his colleague at Nidri, where we were finishing our holiday. This was just the start of our troubles. Want to know more?


jsl January 19, 2011 at 6:32 pm

i am a medical student in greece.all healthcare are covered from the state for any human living/visiting the country.including all tests and operations.that causes a long line, so people take priority acording to their situation.if it is life threatening they get service immediately, if not they wait their turn….that covers the basics in the state health care system…anything but that is a violation of the constitution, punishable by life in prison and even death in extreme pay only if you visit private clinics that, by the way, send any hard case to state hospitals that are of the best in the world by who.


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