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If you are a British national planning to visit, live or work in Croatia, it’s important that you are aware of the regulations surrounding the receipt of healthcare. The information given below should provide the guidance you need to:
– Make sure you’ve got the correct paperwork and cover in place before you leave the UK.
– Ensure you’re aware of how the system operates in Croatia.
– Are aware of what’s covered and what’s not.
– Collect all the relevant information and evidence needed to make a successful claim for healthcare costs.
– Have the correct cover in place if you are enjoying an extended stay in Croatia.
What will happen to healthcare arrangements for UK nationals in Croatia once the UK leaves the EU?
Note that the information given below applies to UK residents until such as time as the UK leaves the EU. Once the UK has left the EU, it may well be the case that different regulations apply. Remember that any arrangements you make will have to be reviewed once a definitive timetable for leaving the EU has been established.
Healthcare in Croatia
Although standards of healthcare in Croatia are generally considered to be very good, the processes, treatments and procedures you experience in a Croatian medical setting may be very different from medical care in the UK. If you need any form of medical care and don’t want to pay for the total cost yourself, it’s important to use a facility or care provider that has a contract with the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (CHIF). CHIF contracted organisations offer public sector healthcare, which is provided for free at point of delivery or at a significantly reduced cost for UK nationals visiting Croatia provided they have a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
If a third party makes arrangements for your medical treatment (for example a tour guide or hotel employee), it’s important to check that they have arranged for you to visit a CHIF contracted hospital. If you visit a private hospital or healthcare provider, you will have to pay the total cost of care yourself, or from travel insurance if you have it.
Planning to Visit Croatia – what health cover do you need?
The EHIC shows that you are usually entitled to free healthcare in Croatia, under Europe-wide agreements. Note that you must show your EHIC card to the hospital administration so that they are able to complete the necessary paperwork.
It’s also important to be aware of the fact that if you receive care from a non-CHIF contracted care provider, you will need to pay for it: it will not be covered by your EHIC card.
If you discover that you have lost your EHIC card, or haven’t applied for one, you can obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) by calling the Overseas Healthcare Service (OHS). A PRC shows that you are eligible for an EHIC, even if you don’t have it with you. The OHS will send a copy of the PRC to the hospital where you are receiving treatment, ensuring that you’re not charged for the care you receive.
Exemptions from EHIC cover
Some conditions and medical circumstances aren’t covered by EHIC. These can often include:
– Medical treatment on a cruise ship (including if you are taken ill whilst on a stop-off in Croatia).
– Mountain rescue.
– Treatment obtained at a private medical facility.
– Repatriation to the UK.
Additional Health Insurance is Often Useful for a Visit to Croatia
Because your EHIC doesn’t cover you for every health eventuality, it may well be worth obtaining additional healthcare cover through travel insurance. Travel insurance can be tailored to meet your specific requirements. It can include cover for pre-existing health conditions, as well as cover for private care, repatriation and any other costs associated with the treatment and care you receive whilst in Croatia.
What medical services in Croatia are covered by EHIC?
Ambulance transport is FREE for all
If you require an ambulance, you do not need to have an EHIC or private care. The emergency services number in Croatia is 112. 112 can be answered in English if required.
This number is FREE from mobiles and landlines. You will need to give the dispatcher much the same information as you would in the UK:
– details of the patient(s), including age, sex, symptoms.
– your name.
– details of the incident which has lead to the injuries or symptoms.
– what type of emergency care you need (police, ambulance, fire service etc).
Emergency hospital care at a CHIF-contracted facility is free if you have an EHIC card, or are eligible for one and can obtain a PRC from the OHS. If calling from outside the UK, the number for the OHS is +44 191 218 1999.
If you have a non-urgent medical problem, you will need to be referred to the hospital by a doctor, in the same way as you would in the UK. In most cases, your EHIC will cover you for most of the cost of your treatment. You will, however, need to pay a co-payment towards the cost of your hospital stay and care. At the time of writing, for each night in hospital you will need to pay a co-payment of HRK100 (around £11.65), up to a maximum of HRK2000 (around £233).
The costs of dental care are mostly covered by EHIC, provided the dentist is contracted with the CHIF. You will normally need to play a small co-payment of around HRK10. This is non-refundable. Check what dental work is covered through EHIC and which you will need to claim on your travel insurance, to avoid having work done which isn’t covered in some way.
Dealing with a pre-existing condition in Croatia
Generally, you should make sure that you have appropriate travel insurance in place to supplement EHIC cover if necessary. EHIC usually covers you for medical care should a pre-existing condition worsen or require emergency care (for example suffering a severe hypo if you are a Type 1 diabetic, or the flare-up of a heart condition).
If you need to take medication with you to keep a pre-existing condition stable, you may need specific authorisation, depending on its nature. If in doubt, check with your existing healthcare provider before you go or consult the government’s information on carrying controlled substances (https://www.gov.uk/travelling-controlled-drugs). Just like any other country, Croatia has its own regulations regarding the use of controlled substances. Make sure that you comply with these if you are visiting the country and taking drugs with you.
What about medical care if I am working in Croatia?
If working in Croatia for less than three months
If you are working in Croatia for less than three months, you will usually be able to have the costs of any medical care that you need covered by EHIC. Remember that EHIC only covers CHIF-contracted facilities. It may be the case that your employer also offers medical cover as part of your benefits package: this may entitle you to treatment at a private medical facility. Additionally, or as an alternative, you may wish to take out appropriate insurance, or your employer might pay your insurance costs for you.
A key consideration for people in a profession where there is a significant risk of injury (for example construction), is knowing who will pay for medical care should an accident occur which is not the fault of the individual in question. Although EHIC covers emergency cover, it doesn’t cover repatriation, or, in some cases, rescue. Before commencing employment in Croatia, make sure you’re clear about who is liable for picking up your medical and ancillary costs should a work-related accident occur.
If working in Croatia for more than three months
After three months, individuals working in Croatia need to start paying into the system in order to continue to have free access to public healthcare. Workers from the UK will need to pay into the CHIF in the same way as Croatian nationals. They will then be entitled to the same healthcare benefits as Croatian nationals. If you want to access private healthcare, or require healthcare services which are beyond the remit of the public sector, CHIF-funded care, then you will need to make private insurance arrangements or be covered by some form of corporate insurance.
If you are employed by a Croatian employer, they should pay your health insurance contribution. If you are self-employed, or contracted, then you would need to pay the health insurance contribution yourself. The current amounts required for health insurance through CHIF are an initial enrollment payment of HRK5000 (about £582), followed by monthly contributions of HRK450 (about £52).
What about healthcare if I am living in Croatia?
Whether you are working or not, after three months of living in Croatia you will need to pay into the CHIF in order to receive CHIF-funded state healthcare. If you have been in Croatia for less than three months, you can usually use your EHIC to obtain the treatment that you need. The requirement to pay into CHIF after three months is irrespective of immigration status, although after three months you will usually require some form of visa if you intend to stay longer.
What about healthcare if I am travelling in Croatia?
For people who are travelling around Croatia for less than three months, a combination of EHIC and travel insurance is usually sufficient to ensure that they have adequate health cover. After three months, travellers need to start paying CHIF contributions in order to continue to access healthcare at CHIF-contracted hospitals and clinics which is free at point of delivery.
What is the healthcare actually like in Croatia?
If you have never used healthcare in Croatia before, you will find it quite different from the healthcare supplied in the UK. Take a look at some of the differences you may find:
– When you go to a doctor for a consultation, if further diagnostic testing is required or an additional consultation, you will be issued with documentation to take with you to the place where the testing will be carried out. This document, called an “uputnica” is presented where you are to be tested and is basically an order for the test to be done. It is very important not to lose this paperwork, or the test can’t be carried out.
– As a UK national, make sure that you have your passport and EHIC card available at all times. Again, you may be asked for one or both of these key pieces of documentation before tests or similar procedures are carried out.
– If you live or work in Croatia for longer than three months and pay into the CHIF for healthcare, remember that not everything is covered through that insurance. Whilst the basic CHIF medical insurance is mandatory, you may also choose to purchase the optional additional insurance. Costing HRK70 (around £8) a month, the additional insurance gives you unlimited access to all state-provided healthcare. This means that you avoid the obligatory, set co-payments which are required for services such as dental care, hospital stays, a consultation with a doctor and similar provision.
– Note that there are certain procedures which are not covered within the state healthcare system in Croatia. Cosmetic surgery, for example, isn’t covered through CHIF insurance.
– If you are concerned about the quality of Croatian healthcare, don’t be! In 2018, the Lancet reported the results of a survey which showed that Croatia ranked 30th out of 100 countries in terms of the quality of the healthcare provided: one rank below the US. See here for more information. Croatian healthcare is generally reckoned to be extremely good, particularly in major cities.
– The only potential area of weakness in the Croatian healthcare system relates to the treatment of mental health problems. People visiting from the UK who require on-going mental health care may find it difficult to access English-speaking therapists and psychiatrists. In addition, treatment approaches to mental health issues are different in Croatia to those found in the UK.