Healthcare in BelgiumThe healthcare system in Belgium is high quality, but as a visitor to the country you would hope never to see the inside of a Belgian hospital. If the worst happens though and you need to see a doctor or go to hospital, you need to understand the differences between EHIC cover and travel insurance cover.
EHIC Cover in BelgiumThe European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to access Belgian state healthcare on the same basis as a Belgian citizen. This can often prove tricky, as most doctors and dentists practice privately only. You cannot claim back any private treatment through the EHIC system, so make sure you are seeing a state doctor, especially if you have relied on a tour operator or friend to make the appointments for you.
If you are admitted to a public hospital, the medical treatment you receive will be covered by EHIC. However, hospitals will charge a fixed daily fee of around 15 euros and you will also have to pay for any medicines which are prescribed. Costs can mount up quickly depending on the type of illness or injury and the medication required. When seeing a doctor, you will be expected to pay the doctor at the time of the appointment, and then claim back up to 75% of the cost using the official form which you have to request from your doctor or dentist. A similar system operates with the cost of prescription medicines, so ensure you get a stamped receipt from a pharmacy. Ambulance transfers do not fall under the state system, and you will be charged a fixed fee plus a per kilometre rate. Most medical professionals in Belgium will speak good English, but the official paperwork will only be available in French or Dutch.
Private Medical Care in BelgiumIf you are admitted to a private hospital or are seen by a private doctor the EHIC system will not apply and you will be expected to pay for your treatment. Show your insurance policy when you are admitted and ensure that your insurance company agree to treatment before going ahead. Treatment in a private Belgian hospital will not differ hugely from the state sector, although the surroundings may be more comfortable and you will be more likely to be allocated a private room.
Depending on the terms and conditions of your policy, you may also be able to claim back from your travel insurer the cost of any medication or additional fees such as ambulance transfers. Private medical insurance will also cover the cost of getting you home from Belgium if you are in hospital and miss your flight or ferry. If you have a complex medical history and have genuine concerns that you might be ill while in Belgium, it is important that you disclose all relevant information to your insurer. Telling them about pre-existing medical conditions might put up the price of your premium a little, but not being insured and being asked to meet all of the costs of expensive treatment could end up costing you a lot more.