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Lithuania, a member of the European Union since 2004, is located on the southwestern shore of the Baltic Sea. It is becoming increasingly popular as a place to visit on holiday or to conduct business. If you are going to be visiting Lithuania for pleasure or work, you’ll need the reassurance of knowing what to expect from the country’s healthcare system and what preparations you’ll need to make before setting off. You can expect a good standard of medical care in Lithuania, much of it provided by a state-funded system called PSD (Privalomasis Sveikatos Draudimas). The ratio of doctors to people is higher than in many countries, staff are well trained and hospitals well equipped, although there can often be long waiting times, especially in facilities located in the larger population centres.
Healthcare for tourists
If you are visiting Lithuania on holiday, you can expect to receive emergency healthcare free of charge or at a reduced cost with an EHIC. Be aware that this is likely to change when the UK leaves the European Union.
If you experience an emergency medical situation during your stay in Lithuania, call 112. This number is also for the police and the fire brigade. You will not need to pay for basic emergency care in a state hospital, but you will have access to more services if you have health insurance. Bear in mind that if you ask your hotel to arrange medical care, they may arrange private treatment for you, for which you will be charged. Make sure you use the emergency number and ask to be taken to a state hospital. Calls will be answered in Lithuanian, so, unless you have a good command of the language, it is advisable to ask for help from a local person.
European Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, entitles you to basic healthcare, at reduced or no cost, under the state system whilst visiting Lithuania. Visit www.gov.uk for more information on how to apply for your card, free of charge. Once you have your EHIC card, you can access medical treatment, which is usually free, by showing it, along with your passport. Visits to General Practitioners are also free, although dental treatment and prescriptions do incur a charge.
Health travel insurance
It is recommended by the UK government that those travelling to Lithuania on holiday take out extra travel health insurance that will enable them to access any medical assistance they might need. Remember that your EHIC will not cover any private treatment. Nor will it cover the costs of being brought back to the UK, mountain rescue services or cruises. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, extra insurance is strongly recommended. Well before leaving for Lithuania, make sure you consult with both your doctor and insurance company to discuss your needs. Extra insurance also gives you access to private healthcare in Lithuania. There is a thriving private healthcare industry in the country, especially in the capital city, Vilnius. Private treatment will give you much more flexibility and choice. For example, you are likely to be seen much more quickly, to be able to choose your doctor and to opt for an English speaking doctor if you wish to do so.
Most dental treatment is not covered by your EHIC in Lithuania as very few dentists are part of the state system, so it is worth allowing for emergency dental care in your insurance as you will need to pay for this yourself. Some dentists may speak English, especially in the cities, so it may be worth seeking one of these out.
Hospitals in Lithuania are generally well equipped and have a high complement of doctors, many of whom train overseas. City hospitals do tend to be much better appointed than those in more rural locations, with the largest being located in Vilnius and Kaunas. You may well experience long waiting times though, as hospitals sometimes struggle to cope with the demand for their services. If you opt to be treated in a private hospital, you will have to pay for this at the time of treatment. If private treatment is covered by your insurance, make sure you keep all paperwork and receipts in order to claim the money back.
Pharmacies and medicines
Pharmacies are called “vaistinė” in Lithuanian. You can get a prescription from a general practitioner or from a specialist doctor and the cost will be subsidised. You will have to pay the difference between the basic cost of the drug and the price at which it is sold at a particular rate of subsidy. 50% will be charged for people of working age and around 10% for pensioners. To qualify for the lower rate, those claiming a UK state pension will need to declare this.
To carry certain medicines to Lithuania with you, you will need a personal licence. Check whether this applies to any of your prescribed medicines at www.gov.uk
There are no particular requirements for vaccination when travelling to Lithuania, other than the usual recommendations of diphtheria, tetanus, polio and hepatitis b. Rabies does exist in mammals such as bats and dogs in Lithuania, but the risk of becoming infected is very small. There is also a risk of catching tick-borne diseases such as encephalitis and Lyme disease, although this is unlikely in cities and larger towns, being confined to more rural areas. The risk of becoming infected can be reduced by using insect repellent, wearing neutral colours and covering legs with trousers tucked into socks.
After the UK leaves the EU
The EHIC will be valid only until the UK leaves the EU. If you are going to be visiting Lithuania after the date when the UK leaves the EU, you are likely to be charged the full cost of any medical treatment you receive. It is therefore strongly recommended that you take out travel health insurance for your visit, as you would for a visit to a non-EU country.
Healthcare for those working in Lithuania
If you are going to be staying in Lithuania for more than 90 days, an EHIC will not cover the cost of medical treatment. Instead, you will need to register with the government and pay into the national health insurance scheme. This known as Privalomasis Sveikatos Draudimas (PSD) and the contributions you pay will depend on citizenship, residency status and your insurance. If you are going to stay permanently in the country, you must pay into the PSD, but if your stay is to be on a temporary residency basis, then you may choose whether to pay in or not. Be aware that not all medical services are covered by the PSD and you may still be charged for certain services such as dental treatment, when a GP sends you to a specialist or when the procedure is funded by the state’s insurance.
If you are working in Lithuania and choose not to pay into the PSD, you should consider buying private health insurance. If you are working for a UK company in Lithuania, then you may be eligible for healthcare funding from the UK. More details can be obtained from HM Revenue and Customs.
After the UK leaves the EU
After the UK leaves the European Union it is possible that you may need to purchase additional healthcare insurance to make sure you continue to receive the medical care you need. You may also need to apply for a national visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to one year, or a temporary residency permit which is suitable for longer stays. If you have lived continuously in Lithuania for more than five years, you may be eligible for permanent residency, in which case you would pay into the PSD and receive all the healthcare benefits of Lithuanian nationals.
Healthcare for those studying in Lithuania
If you are studying in Lithuania, you will need to apply for an EHIC which will cover you for all emergency and non-emergency treatment at reduced or no cost. You will need to hold a national visa, which is granted to all those from overseas studying in the country.
The EHIC will only provide healthcare cover until the UK leaves the EU. When this happens, students will need to purchase health insurance as they would if studying in a non-EU country. The Lithuanian department for Migration will provide more details for students intending to study in the country after this time.
Healthcare for pensioners living in Lithuania
In certain circumstances, pensioners living in Lithuania may be eligible for healthcare paid for by the UK government. This is currently the case if you are getting an exportable pension in the UK or other exportable benefits. To qualify for this, you will need to obtain an S1 certificate. You can find out how to do this by visiting www.gov.uk.
Your S1 certificate will be valid until the UK leaves the EU. If you are staying in Lithuania after this time, you will need to apply for a national visa or temporary residency permit and you may need to consider private healthcare insurance.
Private healthcare in Lithuania
Very few Lithuanians have private healthcare both because the state system meets the vast majority of their healthcare needs and because the cost is relatively high. There are, however, a growing number of private healthcare facilities in Lithuania which cater mainly to the health tourism trade. These clinics are necessarily of the highest standard in order to attract patients from overseas and, since Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, they now have to meet strict EU guidelines. You are more likely to find English speaking staff in a private facility than in a state hospital. The main areas for which patients come to Lithuania for private medical care are cosmetic surgery, dental work and cardiac procedures.
Wellness in Lithuania
Lithuania has a strong tradition of spa treatments and an emphasis on wellness. The most well-established spas can be found in the towns of Birstonas and Druskininkai where you will find many health and beauty treatments on offer. Built on natural springs, their spa treatment is based on the traditional benefits of the spa’s natural mineral water and these days also provide a wide range of modern treatments beneficial to both beauty and health. Spas offer a luxurious supplement to your healthcare experience in Lithuania. Spa centres can be found in all of Lithuania’s major cities.
Choosing a healthcare provider in Lithuania
If you are using the state healthcare system, you have limited choice of provider. If you are paying into PSD, then you will be able to choose your family doctor or primary healthcare centre (which usually consists of a team of a therapist, a paediatrician, a gynaecologist/midwife and a surgeon). You will also have some choice in the hospital you go to after a referral from your family doctor. The largest state hospitals are located in the cities of Vilnius and Kaunas.
These cities are also home to the largest number of private medical facilities in Lithuania, with around 250 establishments in Vilnius and 150 in Kaunas. Most of these have their own specialities and it is advisable to research the different hospitals thoroughly in relation to your medical needs if you are opting for private care.
Whether you are travelling to Lithuania on holiday, to visit, for business, to study or for your retirement, you need to be aware of the Lithuanian state healthcare system and the options for private treatment. You also need to be aware of the changes that are likely to happen when the UK leaves the EU and make preparations accordingly if you are going to be in the country after this time. Lithuania is a country with a lot to offer and a healthcare system that will allow you peace of mind during your stay.