Healthcare in Belgium

Expats moving to Belgium can rest assured that they’ll be in safe hands when it comes to their medical needs. The country is home to one of the most reputable and reliable healthcare systems in Europe.

Unlike many other expat destinations, the division between the public and private healthcare sectors in Belgium is somewhat blurred. Fees are payable for both types of care, and the system is funded by a combination of social security contributions and health insurance funds.

Anyone living and working in Belgium will have access to the healthcare system, provided they have carried out the compulsory registrations and have some form of state or private health insurance.

Expat Protect plans have been designed for expats and local residents in France, Benelux or Monaco.  They can be purchased as a top-up health insurance or purchased as full cover.

To make use of Belgium’s public healthcare system, expats from the European Economic Area and Switzerland can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Expats from the UK can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This entitles expats from these countries to the same treatment at the same cost as a national of Belgium. EHIC and GHIC cards can only be used in Belgium if the card was issued out of the country, so expats should be sure to have this in place before they arrive.

Anyone employed in Belgium contributes to a Belgian health insurance fund as part of the normal social security enrolment process. Most expats opt to top up this cover with some form of private insurance, which entitles them to a wider range of treatments and shorter waiting periods.

Expats should find out whether they qualify for ‘non-resident’ tax status in Belgium. If this is the case, they might not be required to contribute to national social security and will probably be covered by their employer’s healthcare plan.

Hospitals in Belgium are either public or non-profit, while private clinics, usually managed by universities or religious organisations, offer basic treatment for minor ailments. Most doctors in Belgium work in both types of institution, while dentists are almost all private.

Most private health insurance policies in Belgium allow patients to choose their own medical professionals and hospitals. Private medical facilities in Belgium adhere to high standards of care and hygiene across the board.

Most doctors and other medical professionals will also have a good understanding of English, so communication shouldn’t be an issue for most expats.

Pharmacies in Belgium are plentiful. They are marked by a neon green cross, so expats should have no trouble spotting them along streets or in shopping centres. Most over-the-counter medications are readily available, and prescriptions are paid for on collection and will be either partially or fully reimbursed by insurers.

Belgian pharmacies operate from Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings. There is usually an emergency roster system in place for Saturday afternoons, Sundays and out-of-hours services. A number of pharmacies in Belgium also offer 24-hour services. A list of nearby after-hours pharmacies can usually be found displayed on a pharmacy’s window.

Emergency services in Belgium are reliable and response times are generally good. Ambulances will take expats to the nearest hospital, but unless they have a comprehensive insurance policy in place to cover this cost, they can expect to pay for these services out of pocket.

For medical emergencies, expats can call the local emergency number, 100. The general European emergency number, 112, can also be used in Belgium.

Expats should also take note of the contact details for their nearest local embassy or consulate in case of emergency.