The Belgian healthcare system has made a name for itself as one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. The system is funded mainly by Belgian health insurance which is mandatory. Social security contributions also fund the healthcare system.
There are several health insurance schemes sponsored by the government in Belgium and residents can register with any of these. This will enable them to retrieve a proportion of their medical expenses. Some residents also keep private health insurers to foot the remainder of their bills not covered by the government insurance.
Who needs Belgian health insurance?
Employees and self-employed
If you are a foreigner in Belgium, you are required to sign up with the state Belgian health insurance scheme or present evidence of private health insurance in Belgium. Self-employed individuals are also expected to do this.
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national coming to Belgium, you are allowed to make use of your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, the moment you start working in Belgium, it becomes mandatory for you to pay social security contributions. This will qualify you for the same healthcare rights being enjoyed by citizens of Belgium.
Belgium also has agreements with several countries that are not in Europe which enables their citizens to get access to healthcare in Belgium. If you are from countries such as Australia, Japan, and USA, then you are qualified under this category.
Spouses and children
Your children are automatically covered by Belgian health insurance provided you are eligible for the scheme. This includes children up to 18 years old. It also includes dependent spouses.
Nationals of EU countries studying in France are covered by the insurance of their country. Belgium also has agreements with some countries. You must confirm whether your country has a health insurance agreement with Belgium. If your country does not, then you will be required to sign up for your own insurance in accordance with the laws of the country.
Foreign retirees may be able to benefit from state Belgian health care if it is covered by their country. You must be sure about your entitlements before relocating to Belgium. This is because you will be mandated to tender evidence of health insurance during your residency registration.
How to apply for Belgian health insurance
Once you complete your residency registration, you will be given an electronic ID-card (eID-card). This is very important as everybody aged 15 and above living in Belgium is required to carry it at all times. One of the several functions of this ID is that it can be used by doctors and health organizations to verify your insurance status digitally.
Applying to Belgian social security
It is expected that you make social security payments prior to choosing a Belgian health insurance company. Application for social security could be done by your employer. You can also choose to personally do the registration at a social security office close to you. Social security payments are made by both the employers and employees, although employers pay a larger proportion. Self-employed individuals are also required to make these contributions.
Choosing a Belgian health insurance company
After registering for social security contributions, you can join any mutuelle (or ziekenfonds in Dutch) of your choice. These mutuelles are affiliated to political or religious groups, although they render virtually the same services. However, you may want to join a mutuelle that aligns with your political views or religious beliefs.
To register, you must tender a copy of your ID or passport. The mutuelles cover most of your medical expenses. However, you will need to wait for at least six months before you can begin to enjoy these benefits.
Belgian health insurance reimbursements
Often, you are expected to pay your medical bills beforehand, and then claim reimbursements from the insurance company later. You get paid between 50% and 70% of your expenses in most cases.