Expats can take comfort in the fact that the healthcare system in Belgium is one of the most reputable and reliable in Europe. Medical facilities in Belgium adhere to high standards of care and hygiene.
Hospitals and doctors in Belgium generally provide high-quality medical services. Pharmacies are widely available and emergency services are reliable. The healthcare system in Belgium is divided between hospitals that are either public or non-profit and private clinics.
All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium must join the state health insurance scheme or present evidence of private medical insurance. The state insurance scheme covers around 75 percent of medical costs, and will also cover dependent spouses and children up to 18 years of age. Many residents also have private health insurance to cover any remaining costs, particularly if they have an existing medical condition. This supplementary health insurance is often included in an expats employee benefits package.
Public healthcare in Belgium
The entire Belgian healthcare system is funded to some extent by the Belgian government, which provides funds to mutual health organisations. All employees and self-employed workers in Belgium have to contribute towards a Belgian health insurance fund.
Anyone who qualifies for public healthcare can consult with any doctor of their choosing. Most doctors will have a good understanding of English.
EU citizens can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access state healthcare during a short-term visit. UK citizens can make use of their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which replaced the EHIC for UK citizens post-Brexit.
Private healthcare in Belgium
Expats who qualify for non-resident tax status may not be required to contribute to the national social security system, in which case they will probably be covered by their employer’s private healthcare plan.
Patients using private healthcare in Belgium usually pay the doctor for any healthcare provided and then claim from their insurance provider afterwards. This claim can cover anything up to 75 percent of the costs. Most dentists don't accept state insurance, so expats will likely need comprehensive dental insurance cover.
Private health insurance in Belgium
Private healthcare treatments in Belgium can be prohibitively expensive. For this reason, many Belgians and expats supplement their state medical insurance scheme with a private healthcare policy to cover the difference.
Expats who don't contribute to the national social security system should check whether their employer will provide private health insurance. If not, it's important to take out a policy independently to cover the high costs associated with private treatment.
Pharmacies and medicines in Belgium
Pharmacies in Belgium are plentiful and generally operate during regular working hours. Some pharmacies also operate 24 hours a day. A list of nearby pharmacies that are open after hours is usually displayed in a closed pharmacy’s window.
Most over-the-counter medicines are available at Belgian pharmacies. Medical prescriptions must be paid for on collection. Expats should keep their receipts in order to claim costs from their medical aid. It's also advisable that expats make themselves aware of the generic names of any long-term medication, as brand names can vary from country to country.
Emergency services in Belgium
Emergency services in Belgium are reliable, with generally rapid response times. Aside from the general European emergency number, 112, expats can also dial 100 for medical emergencies. Ambulances are not part of the national healthcare plan but may be covered by private insurance for those who have it.