The main objective of this article is to point out the regulations of health care services and health insurance available for expatriates in Turkey. The system of health care is organized by different plans and sections with various laws in Turkey. The main principle is noted in Article 60 of the Turkish Constitution stating that every individual is entitled to social security and health benefits. The Ministry of Health is responsible for providing health care and makes organizations sufficient for such services for all individuals, citizens or foreigners without considering race, language, religion, gender, political opinion, philosophical belief or economic and social status. In this article, I will try to address the practical application of health services for expatriates in Turkey.
Health care options are so abundant that, as an expat, your biggest concern will most likely be to choose a plan that best meets your needs. Health insurance is a compulsory requirement for expatriates and is required to obtain a residence or work permit. If your own country's government health care plan is compatible with Turkish legal requirements, you may be able to resume these plans during your stay in Turkey. Otherwise, if you are working for a Turkish company, your company will register you with the national social security system, which is a premium-based program available to all residents.
The Social Security Institution (SGK) gives you the right to access inpatient and outpatient services in all public hospitals and clinics. It covers most health issues, including pregnancy, occupational injuries and diseases, and provides temporary incapacity allowance to compensate for your situation. Furthermore, it also provides discounts in most private hospitals and clinics.
Even if you do not have an employment contract, provided that you already have a valid Turkish residence permit, you can choose to pay a monthly premium of TL 300 to the SGK. Premiums may vary depending on your age, nationality, health record and the scope of the plan.
As an alternative, you can also subscribe to local or international private health insurance programs.
Since private health institutions tend to have more English-speaking doctors, expatriates prefer private health institutions to public ones.
In terms of foreign tourists, pursuant to Circular No. 2010/16 issued by the prime minister, emergency health services for all individuals are free of charge without any discrimination between private or public health institutions, so foreign tourists who are not covered by any insurance system specifically designed for their visit can access health services free of charge in case of emergency.
Expats employed under service contracts
Social insurance, including short and long-term insurance branches, is regulated by Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Law no. 5510 of May 31, 2006. The provisions regarding individuals considered as insured in Article 4 of this law also applies to foreigners who work on service contracts. An exception to this is for citizens of countries that have entered into the international social security contract according to the principle of reciprocity. Individuals who work in Turkey for short time periods on behalf of non-resident establishments or under their own name and account who are still subjects of their own social security legislation are also not deemed to be insurance holders in Turkey.
As a result, foreigners who work with service contracts, excluding international social security, are considered to be insurance holders for whom social security and health care premiums shall be paid by their employees. Naturally, such expatriates are eligible to use all health care services subject to their employment under the payroll of a resident company.
The international social security agreement
Turkey has signed and implemented international social security contracts with many countries. These bilateral agreements determine legislation applicable to foreigners employed and implementations of equal treatment between foreign and national workers. Issues related to the protection of rights and consolidation during the term of the insured services are supported by these agreements. Accordingly, if a foreign citizen of a bilateral contract party comes to Turkey for work under the payroll of a Turkish resident company, he or she will be entitled to social security and health care benefits. In addition, the continuity of their social security will be protected in their own states, subject to reciprocity. Listed here are the bilateral contract states: Albania, Germany, Austria, Holland, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, Libya, Norway, the Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, Turkish Republic of Cyprus, France, Quebec, Macedonia, Switzerland and Georgia.
General Health Insurance is insurance that protects an individual's health status and provides financing of costs that arise when an individual experiences health risk. Individuals that are considered to have General Health Insurance are listed in Article 60 of the Social Security and General Health Insurance Law.
According to this article, provided under the consideration of the principle of reciprocity, expats that do not have any insurance under the legislation of a foreign country, but hold residence permits in Turkey, are considered to be holders of General Health Insurance. In such an event, a foreigner residing in Turkey for more than a year may be subjected to General Health insurance premiums to receive insurance benefits in Turkey. In addition to the state insurance system, Turkey is included in many private hospitals and clinics with numerous Turkish and international companies that offer insurance plans covering health care in Turkey. Private health insurance schemes allow citizens and foreigners to access private hospitals and clinics selected by insurance companies.
Since each case has its own specific requirements and is obtained independently based on special circumstances, it is not advisable to treat the evaluations of this article as a legal opinion.
* Istanbul-based lawyer