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Whether you’re enjoying the sun, exploring the local towns or working in the capital, it’s important to know how you can access healthcare services when you’re abroad. If you’re travelling to Latvia, holidaying there or thinking of emigrating, you’ll need to determine what medical treatment you’re entitled to and how it’s funded.
Medical treatment if you’re visiting Latvia
If you’re staying in Latvia temporarily and you have a valid European Health Insurance Card, you should be able to obtain necessary treatment for free or at a reduced cost. Whilst an EHIC will enable you to get the care you need, it will only cover treatment which can’t be delayed until you return to the UK and only citizens who are in the country for three months or less can use it.
Furthermore, the EHIC doesn’t guarantee you will get free medical treatment. Although an EHIC can reduce the cost of treatment, there may still be some fees you’ll have to pay. You should also be aware that the EHIC doesn’t cover all types of medical treatments. If you need any of the following, for example, it won’t be subsidised via the EHIC scheme:
- Medically-assisted transport back to the UK
- Search and rescue services
- Treatment in a private medical facility
In addition to this, the EHIC scheme is only applicable to UK citizens for as long as the UK is in the EU. After Brexit, it’s unclear what level of healthcare UK citizens will be entitled to in Latvia or whether they will be able to obtain any type of subsidised treatment.
UK citizens travelling to Europe should obtain a valid EHIC but due to the limitations of the scheme, it’s always advisable to take out travel insurance as well. This is a cost-effective way of ensuring any necessary treatment will be covered, regardless of whether it’s included in the EHIC scheme.
Emergency help in Latvia
Latvia has good emergency healthcare services and you should be able to access 24-hour assistance at all hospitals in the country, as well as at some health centres. If you a seriously unwell or injured and you require emergency help, you can call 112 from any phone.
When you call 112, you’ll be connected to personnel who can dispatch an ambulance, police or fire brigade to you. Alternatively, you can call the following numbers to access them directly:
113 – Ambulance
110 – Police
If you’re not sure how to access the services you need, Latvia has a helpline which provides information about the healthcare services which are available. Available during the hours of 8.30am – 5pm, you find out more about local healthcare facilities by calling 80001234.
If you require medical advice out of normal business hours but it’s not an emergency, you can speak to a doctor on the phone for advice. Simply call 66016001 and you will be able to arrange a telephone consultation.
Accessing state-run medical facilities
If you want to use your European Health Insurance Card in Latvia, it will only be accepted in state-run medical facilities, such as state-funded hospitals and health centres. If you visit a private medical facility or are treated as a private patient in a state-run hospital, your EHIC will not be valid and you will not be able to obtain subsidised treatment.
Most health insurance policies only cover treatment in state-run facilities as well, so it’s highly likely you will need to any private healthcare treatment you obtain, regardless of whether you have additional insurance.
Due to this, it’s important to ensure that you’re treated under the state system if you want to avoid paying in full for your treatment. If you’re transported to a facility by ambulance, ask the paramedics to take you to a state-run hospital, if you’re able to do so.
Similarly, if you ask hotel staff or a travel representative to arrange medical care for you, make sure you specify that you want to be treated at a state-run hospital or medical clinic. In many cases, treatment which is arranged by travel companies is done so under the private system, and this could leave you with a large medical bill.
If you’re asked to pay any fees upfront or to place payment details on record, it’s likely that you’re being treated as a private patient so do clarify with your doctor or nurse who will be able to confirm your patient status. In order to avoid paying costly fees, always make sure that you’re being treated in a state-run facility and that you’re not being treated as a private patient.
Using a PRC in Latvia
If you have a valid European Health Insurance Card, you should take it with you whenever you’re travelling to the EU. However, if you require medical treatment whilst you’re in Latvia temporarily and you cannot locate your EHIC, you may still be able to obtain free or subsidised treatment under the EHIC scheme.
The UK Overseas Healthcare Services can arrange for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to be sent to you or to your doctors, so that you can prove you’re eligible to receive treatment under the EHIC arrangement.
If you need to contact the UK Overseas Healthcare Services, you can do so during normal business hours on:
Calls from inside the UK: 0191 218 1999
Calls from outside the UK: (+44) 191 218 1999
Visiting Latvia with a pre-existing health condition
If you have already been diagnosed with a medical condition, this shouldn’t prevent you from visiting Latvia. If you have a valid EHIC and you’re visiting for less than three months, you should be able to use this to obtain necessary treatment, regardless of whether you’re suffering from a new or existing condition.
However, due to the limitations of the EHIC and the fact that the UK will be leaving the EU, all UK citizens who are travelling to Latvia are advised to obtain travel insurance before they leave the country. When you purchase travel insurance, you’ll need to ensure that your chosen insurer will provide coverage for pre-existing health problems or your policy will be invalid and you may have to fund any necessary medical treatment yourself.
Bringing medication with you to Latvia
If you’re travelling to Latvia and you’ve been prescribed medication in the UK, you’ll need to check that it’s legal to bring it into the country. You should always bring a copy of your prescription and identity documents so that you can prove you’re in possession of the medication legally.
For some medications, additional paperwork is required. To take controlled medicines from the UK to Latvia, you will need a personal license so it’s essential to check whether any of your medication falls into this category.
Getting a prescription in Latvia
If you’re unwell in Latvia, a doctor may prescribe medication for you. Generally, you will be required to pay for your prescription, although medication for some conditions can be obtained at a reduced cost.
If you are prescribed medicine for diabetes, cancer or mental health conditions, for example, you may be able to claim up to 100% of the cost of the prescription back.
Obtaining non-urgent medical treatment in Latvia
If you visit a doctor in Latvia, they may refer you to the nearest state-run hospital if you need further medical care. You can be treated as an in-patient or an outpatient, depending on your condition and the level of treatment you need.
Temporary visitors can use an EHIC to obtain reduced-cost treatment in these circumstances, but only up until the UK leaves the Union. Due to this, all UK citizens who are travelling to Latvia are advised to obtain comprehensive travel insurance which will cover the cost of any treatment they require.
Getting dental treatment in Latvia
The state-run healthcare system in Latvia does not generally provide dental treatment or related services. Although you will be able to access dental treatment if you require it, you may be required to pay in full for your treatment or use your travel insurance policy to fund the treatment you require.
Accessing healthcare services if you live and work in Latvia
If you’re staying in Latvia for three months or longer, you won’t be able to use an EHIC to obtain free or subsidised treatment. However, you will only be able to obtain free or reduced-cost treatment from the state-run health system if you are a Latvian resident.
If you are eligible to apply for residency in Latvia, you can opt for either a permanent or temporary permit. If you are granted a permanent residency permit, you will be able to access the same healthcare services as Latvian citizens, for as long as your permit is valid.
However, the Latvian health service doesn’t provide free treatment in all areas. Like in the UK, you may still need to pay for some things, such as prescriptions.
Residents in Latvia can face quite lengthy waiting times for treatment due to the pressure on the state-run system. Due to this, you may want to obtain private medical insurance whilst you’re in Latvia so that you can obtain treatment more quickly, if you require it.
Healthcare for posted workers in Latvia
If you’re employed by a company based in the UK but you are residing in Latvia in order to work in the country, you are considered to be a posted worker. In some instances, the UK government will fund medical treatment for posted workers in UK countries, but this can be dependent on national insurance contributions you’ve already made.
Furthermore, this arrangement is likely to change when the UK leaves the EU, and possibly before that date. Whilst a scheme which enables you to ‘buy in’ to Latvia’s state-run system may be made available, it is not yet known if this will made available.
Due to this posted workers in Latvia should arrange private medical insurance to ensure the cost of their medical treatment is covered.
Medical treatment for pensioners in Latvia
If you live in Latvia and you receive a UK exportable pension, you may be able to obtain medical treatment which is funded by the UK government. In order to obtain this, however, you’ll need to have worked and made national insurance contributions in the UK or have received some type of benefits in the UK.
Pensioners who are UK citizens but are living in Latvia won’t automatically receive UK-funded medical treatment. You will need to apply for an S1 certificate in order to prove that you qualify for this type of funding. Also known as a Certificate of Entitlement, this will enable you to access UK-funded treatment whilst you’re living in Latvia.
However, this arrangement may only last until the UK leaves the EU. After this date, it’s highly likely that the current healthcare arrangements will be altered and UK-funded treatment may not be available to anyone, including pensioners.
When this happens, pensioners will either need to apply for residency, so that they are eligible to receive the same healthcare services as other Latvians, fund their medical treatment themselves or buy private medical insurance to cover the cost of the treatment they require.
Accessing healthcare while you’re studying in Latvia
Depending on the course you’re enrolled on, the UK government may fund some or all of your medical treatment whilst you’re in Latvia. If you are visiting the country for less than three months and your EHIC is valid, you will be able to use to obtain subsidised medical treatment.
Alternatively, you could apply for a Certificate of Entitlement if you are residing in Latvia for longer than three months and you want to obtain UK-funded medical services.
As outlined above, however, both of these schemes will change when the UK leaves the European Union and they may be changed or withdrawn at any time. Due to this, students who are studying in Latvia for less than three months should obtain appropriate travel insurance and students who are studying in the country for longer than this should apply for residency and/or take out private medical insurance to fund their treatment.