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State vs. private healthcare in Portugal, Mauritius, or Cyprus

Should you get private medical or rely on the state?

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

State vs. private healthcare in Portugal, Mauritius, or Cyprus

Should you get private medical or rely on the state?

By Angelique Ruzicka

, |

3 min read

Some of the most popular countries to move to include Portugal, Mauritius, and Cyprus. According to a global survey conducted by money.co.uk, South Africans want to retire to places closer to home and top of the list is Mauritius, followed by less expensive European countries like Portugal.

Whether you’re retiring or simply moving abroad to work, travel or to study you’ll need to ensure you’ve got yourself covered in the event of a medical emergency.

Here we look at whether you can rely on the state of Portugal, Mauritius, and Cyprus to cover your health costs or whether you’d need to organise private medical insurance.

Portugal

Private cover: Many countries have private health insurance, which covers the cost of private medical insurance, and Portugal is no exception.

Market leaders in Portugal include Alliance, Multicare and AdvanceCare. Overall, there are around 22 private health insurance companies in the country offering different levels of cover.

Average yearly private medical premiums in 2020 cost around €358 (R6,380.51) or €30 (R534.68)* a month. All insurers must cover hospitalisation as a mandatory offering.

As state cover is difficult to obtain for non-EU expats, it’s advisable to ensure you have private healthcare cover organised before you move to Portugal.

State cover: You need to be a registered resident in Portugal to access state healthcare, which is publicly funded and known locally as the Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS).

It’s harder for non-EU citizens to access it, as it’s only accessible if you are employed in the country and paying social security.

Most essential medical services are available free of charge but, unlike the UK, state healthcare in Portugal is not completely free as patients pay standard user fees referred to as ‘taxas moderadoras’.

Mauritius

Private cover: Getting private medical treatment in Mauritius can be expensive so it’s advisable to have this set up before moving to the island. Private providers include Allianz Care, Cigna Global and Swan Insurance.

State cover: Mauritius has a public healthcare system governed by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. Public hospitals offer free healthcare; however, this may not be immediately available upon your arrival as foreign nationals usually pay for treatment.

Cyprus

Private cover: You may get private medical insurance offered to you by your employer if you’re going to work in Cyprus. If this is not an option, you can arrange medical cover through providers such as Axa, Bupa and Allianz.

State cover: Cyprus’ health insurance system is governed by the Ministry of Health and is publicly funded. You can only sign up for state medical insurance once you register with the Ministry for the Interior and get your residency application organised.

However, just like South Africa, Cyprus is in the throes of establishing a National Health Service (Gesy). The process was initiated back in 2019 and, under the new rules, people earning a salary – and even those in retirement or who are self-employed – will have to pay a compulsory fee to be eligible for healthcare.

Co-payments may need to be made but these are currently capped at €300 per year for patients and €75 per year for low-pension earners and recipients of the Guaranteed Minimum Income.

How do you choose?

Choosing between public health services on offer (if you can access them from the get-go) and private medical insurance can be difficult, particularly if you’re on a tight budget.

However, if in doubt or if you’re worried about accessing medical treatment immediately it’s best to ensure that you have private medical cover in place to cover you while you register for state services in the respective country you are moving to.

Another thing to consider is waiting times. Many countries may offer state medical care, but queues may be long.

If you choose private care, browse through all the plans available and choose the best cover for your family and budget. If in doubt, consult a medical broker.

Travel cover

If you’re just holidaying in these countries – perhaps to get a better idea of whether it’s a place you could live – it’s still vital to have travel insurance in place to cover your medical needs.

Remember, the complimentary travel insurance offered by your credit card provider does not necessarily cover you for everything. Often, the level of cover you get is linked to the type of credit card that you own.

Check that you are covered in full should the worst happen, especially if you have a pre-existing condition like diabetes.

*Conversion correct as at 2 November, 2021.

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