Healthcare in Bulgaria
An increasingly popular holiday destination for both beach holidays and winter ski breaks, Bulgaria welcomes more than half a million UK holidaymakers each year. Although the vast majority of these people will experience a relaxed and trouble free holiday, an unfortunate minority will find themselves in need of medical attention. The Bulgarian healthcare system differs from the NHS in several different ways.
EHIC Cover in Bulgaria
Your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is valid in Bulgaria, so make sure you apply for cards well in advance of your holiday, and take one for each member of your family with you. The Bulgarian state health care service is the NHIF, and around 90% of doctors are registered to provide care to people presenting the EHIC card. You are advised to take photocopies of all EHIC documentation with you, as doctors and hospitals may request to keep a copy. A nominal charge will be made for seeing a Bulgarian GP, and this cannot be claimed back under the EHIC scheme. Hospital treatment will be provided free of charge, and any medication which you are prescribed will be given to you free, or at reduced rates if the hospital or doctor issue you with a receipt. Dental treatment is also available at reduced rates, but a lower percentage of Bulgarian dentists provide treatment under the state system. Always check that you are being treated under the EHIC scheme before going ahead with treatment. Many Bulgarian doctors will speak some English, but this cannot be relied upon, especially outside major cities and tourist areas. In many rural areas, state hospitals may not be up to the standards we expect in the UK, and you will be expected to arrange to have food brought into hospital for you.
Private Medical Insurance Cover for Bulgaria
EHIC has limits, and if you are travelling to Bulgaria to ski or take part in winter sports, EHIC cover won’t be enough. The Bulgarian state healthcare system will not cover emergency first aid treatment given after a skiing accident, or transport from the mountain resort areas to the nearest state emergency hospital. Furthermore, EHIC will not cover the cost of getting you back to the UK if your illness or injury means that your travel plans have to change.
Private medicine in Bulgaria is a booming business, and costs are often substantially lower than private medicine in other European countries. If you are covered by travel insurance, check with any hospital or doctor that they are happy to deal with your insurance company before agreeing to be admitted or go ahead with treatment. Many doctors in the private sector will speak good English and are accustomed to dealing with patients from other parts of Europe. Always ask for an itemised bill or receipt, and keep in touch with your insurance company regularly if your stay in hospital is extended. As costs of good quality medical treatment in Bulgaria are low, there is a huge market for health tourism and cosmetic surgery, although none of this will be covered by medical insurance.