Greeks are among the world’s healthiest people and have one of the highest life expectancies in the EU. Greece has one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world, which is largely attributed to their diet, which includes lots of garlic, olive oil and red wine. However, the country has a high rate of smoking-related health problems and the proportion of smokers is one of the highest in the EU.
Greece’s health care system was ranked by the World Health Organization as one of the best in the world. Greece's health care was ranked 14th in overall performance of 191 countries surveyed (above other countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom) and 11th in quality of service in a 2000 report by the WHO. In addition, the health care cost is the lowest among the European Union countries. The Greek Health Care System is a mixed system, with various social insurance funds coexisting with the National Health System. Health care in Greece is provided through national health insurance, although private health care is also an option. Public health services are provided by the National Healthcare Service, or ESY.
The hospitals in the more metropolitan areas are of excellent standards. Pharmacies and medications are of good quality with highly trained pharmacist. Medicines are also highly subsidized since only 25% of the actual cost of the prescriptions is charged. Emergency care is provided free of charge in public hospitals to anyone, regardless of nationality. There are also smaller outpatient clinic in rural areas attached to bigger public hospitals. These facilities provide faster emergency treatment than in bigger public hospitals. Health care services are also provided to EU and non-EU citizens on the basis of multilateral or bilateral agreements.
If you’re an EU citizen, a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC; formerly the E111) covers you for most medical care but not emergency repatriation home or non-emergencies. There is even a “European Health Insurance Card” application now available for your smart phone. The EHIC is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Information on how to obtain and use this card can be found on the European Union website.
Remember to travel with your Health insurance card (your regular plan and/or supplemental travel health insurance plan) and copies of claim forms.
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.
Specialists can be consulted directly, but public hospital residents usually have long waiting lists. In urgent situations (but not in emergency cases), the patient may opt to see a private specialist and be reimbursed later (up to a maximum of 85% of the fee) the Idrima Kinonikon Asfalisseon (IKA). IKA is a government body which runs Greece’s National Healthcare System. Because of the limited facilities of some hospitals, patients can be referred to other hospitals. In the case of non-urgent operations, waiting times can be lengthy.
It is recommended that a person travelling to Greece should purchase full travel insurance or private health coverage if that person intends to stay any length of time. Expatriates who are working in Greece and pay regular contributions to social security may be entitled to full or subsidized healthcare benefits. In such cases, private health insurance can cover the portion of the bill that cannot be covered by the government.
If you need an ambulance in Greece, call 166. There is at least one doctor on every island and larger islands
have hospitals. Pharmacies can dispense medicines that are available only by prescription in most European
countries, so you can consult a pharmacist for minor ailments.
Although medical training is of a high standard in Greece, the public health service is underfunded. Hospitals can be overcrowded, hygiene is not always what it should be, and relatives are expected to bring food for the patient - which could be a problem for a tourist. Conditions and treatment are much better in private hospitals, although they are more expensive. This means that a good health-insurance policy is essential.