Greek healthcare overview
Both citizens and expats have access to the healthcare system in Greece. The system is a mixed one where the national healthcare system, public insurance funds, and the private sector are all involved significantly in the funding and provision of healthcare services.
If you are a foreigner getting a Greece Golden Visa, you may have access to free healthcare benefits.
Greeks are among the world’s healthiest people and have one of the highest life expectancies in the EU: 79 for men and 84 for women. There are as many as 4.9 practising physicians per 1,000 population. On the other hand, there are only 3.8 nurses per 1,000 population, much lower than the average of 8.6 in the OECD countries.
The Ministry of Health is the leading institution in developing and financing health policies in Greece. The Ministry is responsible for provision and financing of the National Health Service, as well as health and social services for the poor, the elderly and the disabled. A very small part of health and social services are provided by municipal authorities.
Funds membership is compulsory for the employed population and their dependents, and is based on occupation. IKA is the largest fund in Greece and provides pension, sickness insurance, and welfare benefits.Out of 300 different social insurance organisations, about 40 provide coverage against the risk of illness to nearly the whole Greek population.
The private sector comprises physicians, practices, diagnostic centres, laboratories, and hospitals. It has seen significant growth over the past 15 years. This trend is influenced by economic growth, the dissatisfaction of the public with quality of public health care, and the oversupply of doctors and other private services.
Primary health care. All of the institutions mentioned above also provide primary health care services:
- National Health System — includes health centres in rural areas, provincial clinics, and public hospital out-patient departments. These services are financed mainly through the state budget, and to a smaller extent by insurance funds;
- Social insurance funds — includes polyclinics owned and operated by specific insurance funds, mainly IKA). These services are financed by the social insurance funds;
- Local authority services — includes a few clinics and welfare services. These services are financed by the state budget through the Ministry of Interior;
- Private sector — includes physicians in private practice and private hospital out-patient departments, financed mainly by out-of-pocket payments or voluntary health insurance.
Public healthcare for EU-citizens and expats in Greece
The Greek Healthcare System is called ESY, and it provides free healthcare to all the citizens and residents of Greece, EU citizens and even expats.
If a Greek citizen works in the country, they must get a social security number AMKA. Their employer has to make contributions on their behalf and arrange a health care provider for them.
A self-employed individual must apply to the Organisation for Self-Employed for insurance.
An EU citizen with a European Health Insurance Card has access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries, including Greece. EHIC covers you for most medical care, including free consultations and even some dental treatments, but not repatriation or non-emergencies.
However, the EHIC does not cover private care costs.
Citizens from other countries should find out if there is a reciprocal arrangement for free medical care between their country and Greece. If you do need health insurance, make sure you get a policy that covers you for the worst possible scenario, such as an accident requiring an emergency flight home. Find out in advance if your insurance plan will make payments directly to providers or reimburse you later for overseas health expenditures.
Expat residents and their families have access to free or low-cost public healthcare if they contribute to the Social Insurance Institute. As soon as expats start working, they will need to apply for national health insurance, which is administered by IKA, and they will be given a social security card known as AMKA. Medical care by IKA-approved practitioners is generally free, although patients are required to pay a fee for prescribed medicines.
Around 30 social insurance funds purchase healthcare services for their covered population both from the NHS and private providers. The majority of the funds are independent entities covering different occupational groups, supervised by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Each provides different benefits and coverage.
IKA is the largest Social Security Organization in Greece. It covers expats and employees in Greece. Self-employed expats can benefit from the social security fund called OAEE.
The main groups of social insurance organisations, the size of population covered, and occupational groups covered are as follows:
- Institute for Social Insurance, IKA — 50% of the population— urban population, including workers;
- Organization of Agricultural Insurance, OGA — 25% of the population; rural population (i.e. agricultural workers);
- Civil servants — 7% of the population;
- Fund for Merchants, Manufacturers and Small Businessmen, TEVE-TAE — 13% of the population; merchants, manufacturers and shop owners;
- OTE, DEH, banks — 2.5% of the population, including telecommunications, electricity and banking staff.
Greeks not wholly satisfied with publicly provided services can turn to the private sector, especially in case of primary health care. Private health care facilities in Greece are considered to be superior to the public alternatives, as they tend to have newer equipment and shorter waiting times.
A person travelling to Greece should purchase full travel insurance or private health coverage. Expats with a Greece Golden Visa, or working in Greece and paying regular contributions to social security, may be entitled to full or subsidised healthcare benefits. Private health insurance covers the bill that cannot be covered by the government.
The private sector extensively provides primary health care services, including physicians in private practice and ambulatory care. A visit from a private clinic’s doctor will cost anywhere between €60—€150.
Many patients prefer to visit hospitals in Athens or large university hospitals to access higher quality care and services, because district hospitals are often understaffed and lacking in technology. Expats seeking to use a private hospital in Greece may choose to have private health care insurance, as they will be responsible for the full cost of their treatment in a private facility.
Health insurance when travelling to Greece
Greece travel insurance covers the costs of medical bills, prescription medication, hospitalisation, and even emergency evacuation back home if something happens to you while travelling.
Whether you need travel insurance for Greece depends on your nationality:
- non-EU citizens who need a visa to visit Greece must also have valid travel insurance, which is a vital part of the visa application;
- non-EU citizens who do not need a visa for Greece do not technically need travel insurance. However, everyone travelling abroad (including to Greece) is highly advised to purchase travel health insurance – at the very least, for the peace of mind;
- EU citizens have health insurance coverage in Greece through the European Health Insurance Card. The EHIC grants the same medical care rights as Greek citizens in all public hospitals.
Your insurance policy must be valid for the entire duration of your trip and cover a minimum of €30,000 for medical and repatriation expenses. In addition to Greece, your travel insurance policy must also be valid in all the Schengen countries.
Medical help types in public and private sectors
AMKA is a Greek National Insurance Number. It provides individuals with basic free treatment in state hospitals and health centres. Long-term residents, including expats that have lived in Greece for more than three months, workers or self-employed people, EU state pensioners, and all dependent members of their families are also eligible for AMKA.
The state healthcare system in Greece includes services such as:
- surveillance of public health;
- control of infectious diseases;
- environmental health control;
- health promotion;
- general and specialist care;
- laboratory services;
- discounted drugs and medicines;
- maternity care;
- medical appliances;
A lot of citizens choose private health insurance because public insurance does not cover all expenses. Also, there are shorter waiting times in private medical facilities than public ones.
Private insurance can cover what public insurance doesn’t. In some cases, it may even cover all expenses. You may also extend your insurance to cover you in Greece if you already have one in another country.
Private insurance covers:
- full range of primary health care;
- specialists’ fees;
- treatment in the country’s best hospitals;
- advanced dental treatment;
- elective cosmetic surgery.
Mental healthcare in Greece
Mental healthcare in Greece is free, including medications and care. If individuals have a valid social security number AMKA, they will be able to get a prescription from the outpatient department of the hospital they were admitted to.
In 2019, the Greek Health Ministry coordinated a committee of mental health experts in a mental health awareness campaign. This committee's mission was to educate and supply practitioners with the tools they need to accurately identify mental diseases like depression.
There is an extensive network of private psychotherapy clinics that provide training to psychologists and psychiatrists, offering both individual and group psychotherapy programmes. In the Athens region, there are 12 private mental institutions with a combined capacity of about 1700 beds. They have a significant percentage of chronic patients, and their bed occupancy is close to 100%.
If you need an ambulance in Greece, call 166.
There is at least one doctor on every island, and larger islands have hospitals. You can also use private first aid ambulances.
The private first aid companies in Greece specialise in staffing ambulances with trained crew and nurses. It undertakes any kind of patient transport throughout all of Greece, 24/7, by ambulances, sea, or air.
Best hospitals in Greece
Hospitals in Greece are split into two categories: general and specialised. General hospitals have multiple specialty departments for most medical cases, while specialised hospitals focus on one specialty.
Many healthcare professionals in Greece speak English, as a lot of them have been trained in North America or the UK. Healthcare professionals in private hospitals are more likely to speak English than in public hospitals.
AHEPA University Hospital
Kiriakidi 1, Thessaloniki 546 21, Greece
+30 231 330 3110
Children's Hospital Agia Sofia
Thivon 1, Athina 115 27, Greece
+30 21 3201 3000
Aiginiteio University Hospital
Leof. Vasilissis Sofias 72, Athina 115 28, Greece
+30 21 0728 9400
Corfu General Clinic
Corfu 491 00, Greece
+30 2661 036044
Ilias 8-12, Glifada 166 75, Greece
+30 21 0911 7000
Karterados, Santorini, 84700, Greece
+30 2286 035300
General Hospital of Kefalonia
Souidias 17, GR28100, Greece
+30 26713 61100
Pharmacies in Greece
You do not need to register with a specific local pharmacy in Greece — simply go to one that is convenient. However, you will need to check that they are able to accept prescriptions from your doctor first. Both your doctor and your pharmacist will need to be registered with the official Greek website for electronic prescriptions.
In the larger cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, pharmacists usually speak English. They will be able to help you with basic health complaints such as coughs and colds. In rural areas, you might want to take along an interpreter if you do not speak Greek.
If you are moving to Greece from another EU country, you can ask your doctor for an EU prescription before you leave. They will probably only be able to provide you with a limited amount of the actual medication, so this can be a good way to ensure you can still pick up the medicines you need even if it takes a while to register with a doctor in Greece.
Some of the medicines that are common outside the EU are restricted in Greece. Make sure you check your prescriptions and discuss possible alternatives with your doctor.
If you are taking a prescription medication that is not available in Greece, especially if it contains a restricted substance, then you will need to have a letter from your doctor back home explaining what you need and why you require it.
Popular medicines that are not available in Greece:
- Codeine. In Greece, it is put in the same category with heroin. The best equivalent in Greece is called Lonalgal, with exactly the same ingredients, pharmacological group, and treatment option.
- Tramadol. The closest equivalent in Greece is called Tramal, which contains the same ingredients and pharmacological group.
- Adderall. Alternatives such as Ritalin and Concerta are both available by prescription in Greece
Greece Golden Visa: how to apply for residency by investment and get medical help in best clinics
Greece residence permit may be obtained by investing €250,000 or more. It is one of the lowest investment thresholds among Europe's popular residency by investment routes.
The Golden Visa allows you to live in Greece and enter the Schengen countries without a visa for 90 days in half a year. Spouses, children and parents of any age can obtain a residence permit together with the investors. They do not need to take an exam in the language or history of Greece.
Changes for Greece Golden Visa applicants will most likely come into effect in spring 2023. The minimum property investment will rise to €500,000. Register ASAP to enjoy benefits for a lower rate.
The residency-by-investment program offers six options:
- Buy a property for at least €250,000. Check out the guide for investors "Property in Greece" to look deeper into the costs and other details.
- Rent a hotel or a tourist property for 10 years from €250,000.
- Buy land for construction or agriculture from €250,000.
- Rent a timeshare for 10 years from €250,000.
- Receive real estate as an inheritance or under a donation agreement from €250,000.
- Buy securities or open a deposit in a bank in the amount of €400,000.
A residence permit is issued for five years with the right to extend it, and it is optional to live in Greece to renew the permit in future. After five years, you can get permanent residence if you live in the country. To do it, you must be present in Greece for at least six months each year and be absent less than ten months in total in five years.
Permanent residence is a life-long status. And after seven years of living in the country, you can apply for Greek citizenship. The passport holders can travel without visa to more than 180 countries.
On final note: about Greece healthcare system
- Foreigners with a Greece Golden visa and their families have access to free or low-cost public healthcare if they contribute to the Social Insurance Institute IKA. Medical care by IKA-approved practitioners is free, although patients are required to pay a fee for prescribed medicines.
- The EU nationals can also benefit from free healthcare services provided they have their European Health Insurance Card, which entitles the bearer to public health services for a limited period of time, generally no longer than 90 days.
- The Greek Healthcare System includes rural health centres and surgeries, as well as public hospital outpatient departments. Other public primary healthcare is provided through health centres operated by social insurance funds, local authorities and municipalities.
- The private healthcare sector is also extensive, and includes doctors in private practice who are under contract with one or more insurance funds. Private medical facilities generally have better facilities with newer equipment. Doctors and nurses in private hospitals are also more likely to speak and understand English.
- Many Greeks and expats take out private health insurance to cover any medical expenses not covered by the public health scheme.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Greek Healthcare System is called ESY — in Greek, Εθνικό Σύστημα Υγείας, ΕΣΥ, and provides free healthcare to all the citizens and residents of Greece. You are eligible for free medical care in Greece even if you are an expat, EU citizen, or unemployed.
The system is a mixed one where the national healthcare system, public insurance funds, and the private sector are all involved significantly in the funding and provision of healthcare services.
Public healthcare is free in Greece if you are covered by a social insurance fund like IKA. If you want to get seen at a private clinic, you can visit one that’s contracted with funds, and part of the money will be returned. A visit from a private clinic’s doctor will cost anywhere between €60—€150.
Anyone, including expat residents and their families, who contributes to the Social Insurance Institute IKA through a social security system called AMKA qualifies for public healthcare insurance. Employment through a Greek company is the most common way to qualify for public healthcare. The other option is to pay into the system as a self-employed individual working in Greece.
EU nationals can also qualify for free healthcare benefits if they have a European Health Card which entitles the bearer to public health cover for a limited period of time. Retirees from EU countries who are receiving their pension from their home country, and who intend to settle in Greece, are also entitled to state health benefits.
If you are from a non-EU country and are not paying into the Greek social security system, you have two medical care options:
- Pay out-of-pocket in public or private hospitals/medical clinics. As outlined above, emergency care in public hospitals is available free of charge. You can pay out-of-pocket for all non-emergency care.
- Obtain private medical insurance in Greece. This offers you medical coverage in the private hospital network offered by your private insurance plan.
One of Greece’s most contemporary centres for diagnosis, surgery, and treatment is CorfuMedica. All around the Santorini island there are pharmacies, clinics, a main hospital, and private practitioners of medicine. There are two hospitals in Kefalonia: the General Hospital in Argostoli and a smaller one in Lixouri.
It depends on the company and insurance plan. Greece residents can include any medical help types in policy — medical advice, hospitalisation, diagnostic tests, recovery allowance, pregnancy and so on.
For example, Piraeus Financial Holdings SA, as an insurance intermediary, carries out the activity of distribution of insurance products. You can buy annual medical insurance for €20—360, depending on benefits.